FCC Announces Pre-Incentive Auction Licensing Deadline

Posted on January 29th, 2015 by

In a public notice, the FCC has announced May 29, 2015 as the Pre-Auction Licensing Deadline for full power and Class-A television stations. Per their 2014 Order, the Commission committed to announcing this deadline with at least 90 days advance notice. They have done so with about 120 days notice.

For most full power and Class A television stations, this deadline is not applicable because as of February 22, 2012, they already held valid licenses for their constructed facilities, and those licenses accurately reflect their current operation. But read carefully!

In its 2014 Order, the FCC used its discretion to carve out a small group of potential stations that could be licensed and protected, even after February 22, 2012. While some of those stations have since become licensed, and therefore need not take any action related to the May 29, 2015 deadline, some still remain unlicensed. Stations that fall into the following categories need to construct and either obtain a license or file a license application by the May 29, 2015 deadline in order to receive protection. The categories: (i) full power stations with channel substitution permits, (ii) full power or Class A stations that hold modification permits issued on or before April 5, 2013, or that were issued permits after April 5, 2013, that complied with the FCC’s TV freeze, but are still unbuilt, and (iii) Class A station initial digital facilities that were not initially licensed until after February 22, 2012.

Also – and very important – if a full power or Class A station’s licensed operation does not match the parameters on its current license, the FCC has given formal notice that this is the last opportunity before the Pre-Auction Licensing Deadline for all full power and Class A licensees to modify their licenses to fix any errors previously made in providing their operating parameters to the FCC, and to have those modifications protected in the repacking process. Such modifications will be protected so long as a modification application that complies with the current freeze (i.e. does not expand a station’s coverage area) is obtained now and a license to cover application is filed, by May 29, 2015.

Finally, for any Class A station that holds a digital construction permit that expires on September 1, 2015, the May 29, 2015 deadline still controls for purposes of incentive auction protection.

For any full power or Class A stations that intend to participate in the auction, instead of sitting it out and waiting for protection in the repack, the May 29, 2015 deadline is equally important, as the station’s licensed facilities as of that date will be used to compute the value of the station’s spectrum.

An important side note – full power stations that need to file an application prior to the May 29, 2015 deadline will be using the new Form 2100, which is decidedly different from the old permit or license application form.