Can expenses incurred by a TV station now in making moves to prepare for the post-incentive auction repacking of the TV spectrum be reimbursed if that station in fact is forced to move after the auction? In a clarification “Declaratory Ruling” released on Monday, the FCC said that they can – in an aim designed to expedite the post-transition repacking of the broadcast spectrum. The TV spectrum, after the auction, will be consolidated into fewer channels, as part of the TV band will be cleared of broadcast stations so that it can be sold to wireless broadband users. The Commission noted that one party asking for the clarification said that work could begin now on modifying tower structures so that they can be prepared for the mounting of new antenna for stations that have to change channels.
Of course, the FCC noted that the reimbursement can only go to the stations that are actually repacked. If a station is instead bought out entirely, or if it is left on its current channel, these pre-auction preparatory actions will not be reimbursed. While the FCC did not mention it, we note that, in making any such moves, stations should remember the rules that prohibit communications about auction plans by broadcasters (this auction’s version of the auction anti-collusion rule). So discussions involving any stations that filed their initial applications to participate in the auction back in January may well want to refrain from these kinds of conversations to the extent that they involve other stations, or parties that could convey information to other stations involved in the auction, as those conversations might be of concern under these rules limiting communications about auction matters (see our article here about these prohibitions).