FCC adopts new channel sharing rules for broadcasters

NAB Executive Vice President of Communications Dennis Wharton cheered the FCC order for clearing up ambiguity.

The FCC adopted a new Report and Order that expands broadcast stations’ ability to share a single TV channel so viewers can continue to receive their broadcast programming.

The FCC’s spectrum auction is due to wrap up soon, and full power and Class A broadcast stations that opted to relinquish their spectrum will likely need to share a channel with another full power or Class A broadcaster.

The FCC’s action will allow television broadcast stations with an auction-related channel sharing agreement (CSA) to continue channel sharing by entering into a new CSA in the event that their existing agreement ends.

“This enables stations to continue providing service to their viewers. The new rules also permit Class A stations to channel share outside of the auction context,” the FCC wrote in a news release.

 FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, in a statement (PDF) referencing the Care Bears’ motto “Sharing is Caring,” acknowledged the previous channel sharing rules were too limited.

“We will permit primary stations to enter into new sharing agreements, either with the same sharing partner or a new one, once their auction-related agreements terminate or otherwise expire. This will help prevent loss of broadcast service to the public by ensuring that stations with auction-related channel sharing agreements can continue broadcasting once their agreements end. We will also permit Class A stations that were not parties to auction-related sharing agreements to channel-share outside of the auction context,” said Pai in a statement.

RELATED: OTA proposes transitional channel sharing to speed post-auction transition

The FCC is also aiming to help stations that could be displaced the channel repacking process that will take place once the incentive auctions are officially closed.

The FCC previously authorized channel sharing between secondary stations to help mitigate the auction’s potential to displace these stations. This order goes one step further and permits all secondary stations to share a channel outside the auction context, not only with another secondary station but with a primary station as well, Pai added.

NAB Executive Vice President of Communications Dennis Wharton cheered the order for clearing up some ambiguity.

“NAB commends the Commission for providing additional flexibility to channel sharing broadcasters following the auction. By giving stations options to replace sharing agreements that expire or terminate after the auction, the Commission provides greater certainty for stations that choose to enter into such agreements,” said Wharton in a statement.