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NPR to FCC: TV spectrum auctions affect radio too

broken tvAn interesting filing from NPR to the Federal Communications Commission concerning the impending wave of incentive auctions planned to “reassign” television broadcaster spectrum, ultimately for wireless broadband use. NPR reminds the Commission that a lot of the television towers that broadcast video signals stream radio as well, and public broadcasters could be affected by this transition.

To wit:

“Many communications towers are used to mount both radio station and television station transmitting antennas and related equipment. The mere substitution of one television transmitting antenna for another television station transmitting antenna as a result of a channel reassignment might not seem to affect other tower users, but the matter is not so simple. . . . [T]he modification to attain compliance with current technical standards may temporarily or permanently dislocate radio station transmitting antennas operating from the tower, resulting in costs for both equipment and related engineering, legal, and other services.”

Some background: In February of last year Congress passed the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, which does about 50 or so different things from extending the payroll tax a bit longer to expanding drug testing for some federal employees. Of relevance here is the creation (from that law) of a TV Broadcaster Relocation Fund designed to finance “reverse auctions” that will coax television spectrum owners to relinquish some of their licenses—they presumably then auctioned to the wireless broadband companies facing a “looming spectrum crisis.”

This is going to be a very complicated process. Some TV stations will adopt new transmitter systems after selling off some of their licenses. The FCC has launched a comment proceeding to create a Catalog of Eligible Expenses related to spectrum reassignment costs.

But NPR notes that the Catalog doesn’t say much about broadcast radio, specifically the “dislocation of radio station transmitting antennas and related hardware as a result of the television station reassignment”:

“The most common impact of the impending television channel reassignment on NCE-FM [non-commercial educational FM] licensees will concern FM antennas and transmission lines. These may need to be moved to accommodate a new television transmitting antenna, a new transmission line or waveguide for the television transmitting antenna, or to allow removal of the original television lines. Additional costs for temporary relocation of the FM station antenna are likely to be incurred while the television and tower work proceeds, which could require many months. Engineering and relocation costs will accompany these capital and equipment costs in virtually every instance of dislocation.”

“These and similar costs should be reimbursed . . . in a variety of circumstances,” the NPR filing concludes.


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