In a Public Notice (the “Notice”) released a short time ago, the FCC announced that it will extend—until September 11, 2019 at 11:59 pm ET—the completion date for Phase 5 of the post-incentive auction transition because of the threat Hurricane Dorian poses for portions of the Southeast Coast of the United States, including North Carolina. That is, repacked stations assigned to transition in Phase 5 must cease operations on their pre-auction channel by that date and time. The Phase 5 completion date had been September 6, 2019.
In the Notice, the FCC explains the reasoning behind its extension: “There remains considerable uncertainty about the future path of the storm and therefore its implications for the completion of construction projects related to the transition, but we are mindful that Phase 5 includes a significant number of stations in areas that may be affected by the storm, including North and South Carolina. In light of the important role broadcast television stations play in providing critical news and information to viewers during a state of emergency, we have determined that the most prudent approach is to extend the Phase completion date for all stations in the Phase to assure that viewers will not be required to rescan their TVs during this period and risk missing important emergency news and information. This extension will permit each station to determine the appropriate transition timing for its station and its viewers based on the developing conditions in its market.”
The Commission notes that stations assigned to Phase 5 will automatically receive the benefit of the extended completion date and that they need not take further action in order to avail themselves of it. The Notice further explains that the FCC will not be amending the Phase 5 completion date in its License Management System (“LMS”) (i.e., the completion date will still “show up” as September 6 in LMS), but that it will treat the “old,” September 6, 2019, Phase 5 transition deadlines and associated construction permit deadlines that will be seen in LMS as if they read September 11, 2019.
The FCC in the Notice says that it will continue to work with individual stations, including those impacted by Hurricane Dorian, on a case-by-case basis. The Commission encourages transitioning stations to contact their assigned Regional Coordinator with specific concerns. More information regarding your station’s assigned Regional Coordinator can be found here: https://www.fcc.gov/about-fcc/fcc-initiatives/incentive-auctions/transition-schedule.
The Notice also states that the FCC does not, at least at this time, anticipate amending any other repack-related testing period start dates or Phase completion dates, but the agency reminds broadcasters that it will continue to monitor the storm and will announce any other changes that may be warranted.
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