With much of the United States under COVID-19 stay-at-home directives, and frost warnings still in the forecast, it’s as good a time as any to review the upcoming cable and satellite carriage election process for television broadcasters. The FCC recently completed an overhaul of its rules governing how eligible television broadcasters provide notice of their carriage elections to cable and satellite companies. The first deadline under those new procedures is July 31, 2020, when broadcasters must update their online contact information at the FCC as a precursor to implementing the FCC’s new paperless MVPD carriage notification procedures.
The FCC announced the opening of a new filing window to modify pending applications proposing new digital Low Power TV and TV translator service in rural areas. This filing window will permit applicants with long-pending applications who have subsequently been displaced by the Incentive Auction and the repacking process to submit amended proposals, subject to certain conditions.
In June 2009, the FCC announced a filing window for new digital LPTV and TV translator stations to serve rural areas. The window opened on August 25, 2009, and the plan was for the FCC to permit similar new, non-rural proposals to be filed starting on January 25, 2010. However, at the same time that the FCC was accepting applications for new rural LPTV and TV translator stations, it was also considering the adoption of the National Broadband Plan, which, inter alia, proposed to re-purpose a portion of the UHF television spectrum. The FCC first delayed, and then cancelled, the “non-rural” filing window, and imposed a freeze on the filing and processing of the rural proposals.
As a result, there are now a significant number of pending applications for new LPTV and TV translator stations to serve rural areas that have been frozen since 2010. The new filing window, which will be open between December 2, 2019 and January 31, 2020, will permit applicants to submit amendments that (i) specify a new digital channel in the revised TV band and/or (ii) propose a change in transmitter site of 48 kilometers or less. The amendments must protect full-power, Class A television and LPTV/translator stations that have been licensed or that hold valid construction permits, along with any previously-filed applications for those services. Moreover, any amendment must continue to qualify as a rural service proposal.
After the window closes on January 31, 2020, the FCC will provide mutually-exclusive applicants the opportunity to resolve conflicting proposals through settlement or engineering amendments. If an engineering conflict cannot be resolved, the FCC will conduct an auction. The FCC will dismiss all pending applications that do not submit an in-core amendment during the filing window.
Given the holiday season and the short turnaround on filing amendments, applicants with long-pending applications should move quickly to find a new channel and/or tower site that will permit the FCC to process their application.