NAB Says Repack is Becoming Harder, More Complex

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The NAB has been predicting a shortage of tall tower crews, plus winter weather, will seriously impact some broadcasters’ ability to meet the FCC’s spectrum repack deadlines. Now, those predictions are coming true.

While Phase 1, which ended two weeks ago, was successful, with 79 full-power television stations meeting the deadline, 11 needed an FCC waiver. 

Those were placed in a different phase that will not impact other stations, NAB EVP Government Relations Curtis LeGeyt told lawmakers Tuesday. “This will not be the case moving forward,” as “the repack process becomes more complex.”

During a House Telecommunications Subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill that included testimony on the repack, LeGeyt said those 11 stations could not move on time for reasons not under their control. He asked lawmakers to ensure the FCC applies a “fair” waiver standard to such stations, citing a lack of tall tower crews and weather delays. “We are looking for assurance that no station will be forced off the air, regardless of their inability to meet the deadline for circumstances outside their control.”  

The industry “will do everything in our power to do these moves as soon as possible,” said LeGeyt.

The story of two stations illustrates what broadcasters are up against. This April, a tower crew was reinforcing the nearly 2,000-foot KOZK-TV tower in Springfield, MO, to support a new antenna needed for the repack when the tower unexpectedly collapsed. The crew foreman crew was killed, and the remaining crew members sustained injuries, Inside Towers reported.

KOZK operated for several months on interim facilities at lower power. It is currently sharing a tower with another station, which is a temporary solution, according to LeGeyt. He called it “amazing” the station was able to move, change frequencies and meet its repack deadline “given the horrific circumstances.”

The same crew that worked on KOZK was scheduled to work on the more than 2,000-foot KVLY-TV tower in Fargo, ND this fall. “KVLY faced a terrible decision: shut down their broadcast transmission on their existing channel and go off the air to comply with the FCC rule, or operate on an interim facility that would leave 30,000 viewers without their local news, weather and emergency information,” LeGeyt testified.

While KVLY received a waiver, broadcast tower workers are also sounding alarms about delays, citing unforeseen structural work and site failures, to name a few issues, according to LeGeyt. Comments? Email Us.”

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

December 12, 2018               

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