O’Reilly Lauds T-Mobile for ‘Priming Pump on Tower Crews’
FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly says he’s aware of the tower crew shortage for the broadcast repack. “I was one of the first people to raise the issue years ago when everyone looked at me funny for suggesting there may not be sufficient crews to install new towers and antennas or relocate stations to other towers within a market,” he told attendees of the Midwest Next-Gen TV Summit in Columbus, Ohio last week.
Noting that affected broadcasters and the agency are methodically working through the ten repack phases, O’Rielly is interested to hear station repack experiences and know what issues may be on the horizon.
He praised T-Mobile, the largest winning bidder in the incentive auction, for trying to solve potential obstacles to repacking. “They have primed the pump on tower crews, jumped ahead in Puerto Rico, and are turning to new markets on a weekly basis,” noted O’Rielly. He credited them with taking some problems off the Commission’s plate.
O’Rielly declared the agency’s commitment to hold broadcasters ‘harmless’ financially through the repack a reality, citing the additional $1 billion Congress allocated for this purpose, including $50 million for affected radio stations.
He visited WKAR-TV, on the campus of Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI; WKAR was the first public broadcasting station to navigate and complete the repack, according to the Commissioner. The station had to replace the main studio antenna, transmitter, transmission line, and auxiliary antenna, and do so without a corporate sponsor underwriting the added spending.