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RabbitEars Repacking Tools

Tomorrow, April 14, is the 9th birthday of RabbitEars as you know it today. That was the day that the code Bruce Myers wrote was made public for the first time. Even then, we were in the thick of things, with the DTV transition approaching within a year (before it was delayed by a few months). While work had been on-going for some time, it was April 14 that RabbitEars was made live to the public, tracking the transition and providing useful information for all comers.

In a certain way, it's fitting that one day before the anniversary of the site, I am announcing the launch of a collection of tools I have written with information about the FCC Repacking effort. I won't rule out adding more tools as time goes on, but here's what I have ready as of today's release of the Closing and Channel Reassignment Public Notice.

Repack Channel Assignments

This tool contains the full set of repack channel assignments. It relates them by READS Rank, Transition Phase, Operator, and in other ways. The rows are color-coded, with light blue meaning repacked within its current band, green meaning UHF to high-VHF, yellow meaning high-VHF to low-VHF, and red meaning UHF to low-VHF. Uncolored rows are unchanged. Each row also contains links to some of the other tools mentioned here. (One thing that is not mentioned here is which stations elected one or both channel sharing options; stations going off the air in any case are gray. There were so few stations that did not check one or both options that it did not make sense to include support for a feature that would only exclude 10-15 stations total.)

EDIT (4/16/17): This tool now features the Linked Station Set (LSS) ID number, and has links to both the Phase Map and LSS Map for each row which has a value for those fields.

Update to the Repack Checker

The Repack Checker has been a part of RabbitEars for some years now, periodically receiving updates when new FCC Constraints were published, accessed from the main listings by clicking on the magnifying glass icon found next to any auction-eligible station. The last update was in November 2015, when the constraints used for the repack process were published. Now that the new channel assignments are public, the Repack Checker was updated to allow sorting by "FCC Repack" channel order as well as the several current options.

Repack Channel Maps

This map is almost self-explanatory; it shows the new channel assignments on a channel-by-channel basis. There are a few hidden special maps which are not linked directly off that page, which would be this one showing every station that opted to relinquish its spectrum or had its license canceled, and this one showing all of the ones from the previous map plus the stations which are changing band. (So, essentially, all the winning bidders.) As ever, please note RabbitEars uses noise-limited contours for all stations, even LPTV and Class A stations, which are protected to a different threshold by the FCC.

Phase Map

The channel changes that result from the FCC repack will occur in 10 phases, staggering the rescan dates for different markets. This page will allow you to see, in several different ways, what those phases look like and which stations/regions are in each, as well as color-coding them for ease of interpreting and allowing you to look at the phases channel-by-channel. For people who are more interested in wireless than TV, there are even options to look at channels 38-51 as a group to see how quickly the new wireless band will be cleared for use. As ever, please note RabbitEars uses noise-limited contours for all stations, even LPTV and Class A stations, which are protected to a different threshold by the FCC.

Linked Station Set (LSS) Maps

As part of the phased transition, some stations have to coordinate with each other in order to ensure their moves do not cause interference within a phase. These groups of stations are called "linked station sets." I've created a set of maps which show the stations included in each of the 83 linked station sets. I'm sorry that they're currently IDed only by their LSS ID number, but that's the only way I have to identify them at this time. Opinions on how to further describe them in that drop-down would be appreciated.

Is there something I could create which might be useful which is not here? Or a feature I could add to one of the above new pages which would be helpful? Leave a comment, send me an e-mail, or post in the appropriate thread on SatelliteGuys or AVSForum, noted below. Please note that I do intend to incorporate some of this information into the main listings over the coming weeks and months, but could not do it in advance of the data going public.

Finally, here are a few interesting statistics about the FCC Repack. I will make no promises about the exact accuracy of these, since I did some of the counts by hand and errors can creep in.

2200 stations were protected in the repack process. Of those:

  • 5 either lost their licenses or turned in their licenses during the process.
  • 145 opted to relinquish their spectrum completely, either to go off the air or channel share.
  • 30 opted to change band, moving from UHF to VHF or high-VHF to low-VHF.

This means that there will be 2050 protected stations going forward.

To break down the 145 relinquishers:

  • 52 filed pre-auction channel sharing agreements.
  • 81 opted to seek a post-auction channel sharing agreement.

This leaves only 12 stations who had no channel sharing option and will definitely be going off the air entirely.

To break down the 30 band-changers:

  • 16 stations accepted UHF to low-VHF bids.
  • 1 station (WQED) accepted a high-VHF to low-VHF bid.
  • 13 stations accepted UHF to high-VHF bids.

And a few statistics on the remaining 2050 stations:

  • 1063 stations are staying put in this process, meaning 987 stations have to move.
  • No low-VHF stations are moved; all 17 of the low-VHF bidders can be accommodated without changing the channels of any existing low-VHF stations.
  • 67 stations are repacked in high-VHF to accommodate the 13 high-VHF bidders.
  • That leaves 890 stations that are repacked within the UHF band.

Got questions? Feel free to leave a comment here, or post in the thread on SatelliteGuys or the thread on AVSForum and I will get back to you in a way that everyone else can benefit from your question.

And so it begins!

Comments

1. On Thursday, April 13 2017, 15:19 by reans

wont there be interfence caused by 3 channels using 26 .one channel channel 40 from Toronto-25 from richest andchannel 22 from erie.since I live in Hamilton Ontario the erie and Toronto channels will interfere with each other and the people living in scarbourgh would have the Toronto and Rochester channels interfearing

2. On Thursday, April 13 2017, 16:39 by Tripelo

Very nice, thorough, and lots of detail. Several ways of viewing the large amount of data. Much appreciated.

3. On Thursday, April 13 2017, 17:43 by w9wi

EXCELLENT listings.

With a few surprises:)

4. On Thursday, April 13 2017, 19:32 by msndrspdx

I'm assuming most of the stations involved in the repack would get to keep their virtual channel. How many would be forced to change their virtual channel? Also, there should be a way to show channel share arrangements...who moves in with whom, and how it will be ID'd on the air? Showing current and new virtual channels in the chart would help. I understand that those in phase 2 are supposed to do so in 18 months. Also noticed several Canadian stations moving in a repack of their own, presumably to stay in step with the US. Several Mexican stations are moving or closing to make room for the repack on the US side, including two Tijuana stations due to close soon - XETV ch. 6 and the Telemundo ch. 33 outlet are, I understand, due to close, with the programs on those stations moving to subchannels on San Diego stations. Might check on these and list close/move dates in the notes column in the listings, as well as call-letter changes resulting from that, if any. This might apply to channel share setups elsewhere as well.

5. On Friday, April 14 2017, 20:46 by Brian in CT

Great job with the repacking tools trip! You even updated the stations in the "Market Listings" which I greatly appreciate. By the way, you might want to replace the "0" with something like an "s" to show which TV stations are not going off-the-air, but instead are channel-sharing. For example, there is no way WNBC-TV in New York City is going anywhere except to channel-share with co-owned WNJU. When and if you get that kind of information, I hope you can share it with us.

As for the repack itself? It doesn't look as bad as I thought it might be. Let's hope the FCC knows what it's doing.

6. On Friday, April 14 2017, 23:34 by DH

For the LSS lists, it should not be that hard to search whether a given station is in a LSS, and what LSS it is in. Would probably make it easier to search for stations of interest.

7. On Saturday, April 15 2017, 21:46 by msndrspdx

Agree with Brian on stations giving up one station but sharing with another. Suggest "ChS->" to show that station is moving in with another; "-> ChS" to indicate where channel moved from. Close/move date could be listed in the notes. Stations closing outright could still be indicated by "0" and scheduled closedown date in the notes.

8. On Sunday, April 16 2017, 09:30 by Trip Ericson

To address some of the later comments here (as I think I addressed the first one on a message board, and 2 and 3 don't need responses):

The channel number indicator is stored in the database as an integer. So I can't put an S there because S is not an integer. Additionally, channel sharing agreements have yet to be announced and those commitments are not binding, so although a station may have checked one or both of the channel sharing boxes and may be listed as such, that is no guarantee that a sharing agreement will actually happen and the station may instead go off the air, so it's premature to indicate sharing for any of those stations.

XETV and XHAS are not signing off, they're changing programming. XETV will move to only Spanish-language programming from Mexico, while XHAS will pick up Azteca America (broadcasting from Mexico, go figure).

No station should have to change its virtual channel unless it shares with a station that is geographically very far from its current location. Since the goal was to keep coverage the same for repacked stations, those stations should not have new conflicts with virtual channel numbers. I am not going to add virtual channels to the repack channel assignment list because they are and will remain in the main listing and should be unchanged going forward.

I never list dates of affiliation changes and the like because those always tend to change, whether an unexpected early launch or a slip in the schedule to a later date. It's too much work to maintain. As for phase dates, those will come out of the FCC database as construction permits get granted, so that will automatically find its way into RabbitEars without my intervention.

DH, that's a good suggestion, and I'm planning to do more with the Linked Station Sets in the coming weeks. I didn't get that dataset until pretty late in the process, so that map was about all I had time to do. A search function may make sense, but perhaps just listing the LSS ID in the regular repack channel assignment listing with a link to the associated LSS Map would make sense and be easier to implement. Opinions?

As for the FCC knowing what it's doing, I remind you that I'm an FCC employee who was hired to work on this process, and I was one of the people who had to sign-off on the channel assignments. Take from that what you will. ;)

9. On Sunday, April 16 2017, 17:34 by Trip Ericson

The LSS ID is now listed on the Repack Channel Assignment listing, and both it and the Phase number link to the appropriate maps when you click on them.

10. On Sunday, April 16 2017, 19:35 by Brian in CT

Wow Trip. The FCC bigwigs are letting TV geeks like us take the lead in managing the repack. So you're not getting any interference from above? Maybe I'll stop worrying about the repack and start worrying about the ATSC 3.0 rollout.

11. On Monday, April 17 2017, 07:44 by Trip Ericson

Don't forget, I went to college and got a degree in Electrical Engineering, so I'm an actual engineer and not just a TV person.

For sharing stations, NBC put out a press release announcing the sharing with WNJU, WMAQ, and WCAU. I'm considering having the WNBC listing, for example, point to the new channel of WNJU as well. It's not exactly perfectly clean, but may make things a little more certain than the current appearance. And maybe I'll see about adding a flag that could change the background color of that text for channel sharing stations. Any opinions on this?

12. On Monday, April 17 2017, 13:45 by Trip Ericson

I went ahead and did it. Let me know your thoughts.

13. On Monday, April 17 2017, 20:43 by Brian in CT

Good job with adding the channel sharing information, Trip. I assume that those highlighted in green are a firm go, and those highlighted in yellow are possibilities. I guess if you ask you shall receive. I hope you can keep up with all the updates.

14. On Tuesday, April 18 2017, 02:37 by Mark

Perhaps this has been touched on before, but what I'm curious about is do the stations which channel-share (WNBC, WSNS, KOCE-PBS, etc.) remain as full-fledged licensees or are they becoming "diginets" for the markets they serve?

15. On Tuesday, April 18 2017, 12:41 by Trip Ericson

Green means the channel sharing partner has been publicly announced. Yellow means they've announced they are channel sharing but not who with.

I'll do my best to keep up with it. I'm still not caught up putting the new channels into the main listings.

From a technical standpoint, they'll look like subchannels, albeit with the virtual channel numbers they have now. From a legal standpoint, they will continue to be separate FCC licensees, so they are separately responsible for abiding by the FCC's rules.

16. On Tuesday, April 18 2017, 21:09 by DH

Honestly, listing the LSS IDs in the repack listings is OK by me.

17. On Sunday, April 23 2017, 10:54 by DDS South Florida

This thread and database is spectacular and thank you for being so thorough.

Could you explain channel sharing a bit, please. How it will work?

I live on the county line border between Palm Beach and Broward Counties which divides the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale TV Metro and the West Palm Beach Metro.

WPBT/Miami PBS digital channel 18 appears to be moving channel 29 to a sharing scenario with it sister WXEL/West Palm PBS currently on digital 27 but also moving to 29.

So for those of us accustomed to receiving both OTA, how will that work in the "sharing" environment?

Thanks!

18. On Monday, April 24 2017, 21:22 by Bug

The FCC has yet another change to correct the Mayhem created by mandating the use of old NTSC date in this the new digital age.
I speak of PSIP using NTSC data.

The FCC needs to Mandate the use of new digital ATSC data for the PSIP needs of identification.
All stations should identify using their RF channel.
This would stop identification problems when using NTSC channel assignments.
NTSC no longer exists!

Ya..Ya..branding.
Well, brands change all the time and people learn to
accept new brands.

Lets move away from any use of NTSC data for identification of our ATSC channels.

19. On Tuesday, April 25 2017, 12:59 by Kevin Parrish

To: RabbitEars Staff,

Thanks for the continued excellence and dedication in maintaining your website. I stopped on by just to have a quick look on what you have concerning TV Repack. All efforts on your part truly serve in the public interest by providing valuable resource information.

Thanks & keep up the good work!

KP

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