Some 250 full-power TV stations still need to move to their new channels and experts believe not all of them will have fully made the transition in time for this summer’s FCC repack deadlines. That was the conclusion of industry representatives speaking at NATE UNITE 2020 on Tuesday during, “Unpacking the Repack.”
The NAB’s Bob Weller said one of the biggest problems for stations when the repack began was getting the word out to viewers so they still knew how to watch their favorite TV stations even when tower work was being done.
He credited the FCC for helping put together an education program, in addition to NAB’s efforts.
The agency has also been quick to pay reimbursements submitted by broadcasters for expenses incurred in the channel moves. However, T-Mobile’s Katie Miller said those are often quickly rejected if the dollar amount that is submitted has been rounded up or down. At that point, the station needs to submit more documentation.
T-Mobile has built relationships with stations, equipment manufacturers and towerco contractors in order to speed things along. For example, the telecom helped PBS move more than 500 translators before their repack phase deadline, “to help Big Bird stay on the air,” said Miller.
Both Electronic Research Inc.’s Kathy Stieler and Weller emphasized that just because a station has moved off of it’s old frequency, it may be using an Aux antenna or some other temporary fix on the new channel. There’s still a lot of work to be done for the repack to really be done, they both agreed.
Stieler said tower contractors don’t want to work in the north right now, preferring warmer climates if possible. Extending the size of tower crews enables someone to go home for a break while the rest of the crew continues to work.
Helicopter use is becoming more common with repack work. It’s faster and helps to save time, she noted.
By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief