NAB Comments on Radio, LPTV Repack Expense Reimbursement
|RADIO ONLINE | Wednesday, September 26, 2018|
The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) filed comments with the FCC in response to the Commission's Notice of Proposed Rulemaking concerning the reimbursement of LPTV, TV Translator and FM radio stations for reasonable expenses incurred as a result of the repacking and relocation of full power and Class A television stations following the close of the broadcast spectrum incentive auction.
The close of the broadcast spectrum incentive auction in 2017 marked the end of the first phase of a new model for spectrum reallocation. It also marked the beginning of a massive, complex and unprecedented relocation of nearly a thousand broadcast television stations to new channels. The repack affected potentially hundreds of FM radio stations located on or near towers supporting repacking, as it stations could have to reduce power, or shut down entirely for extended periods of time to protect tower workers. As such, congress made FM stations eligible for reimbursement for expenses needed to maintain service during repacking.
As the Commission moves forward preparing to imple ment these provisions, NAB says it should be guided by the "goals of minimizing disruption to viewers and listeners and treating broadcasters involuntarily affected by the repack fairly." As an initial matter, the trade group says "the Commission should not read into the appropriations language limitations that do not exist." In particular, the NAB says the Commission should not treat the limitations Congress set forth for Fiscal Year 2018 funds as ceilings, since Congress included no such limitations for Fiscal Year 2019 funds.
Additionally, while NAB generally supports the Commission's proposals with respect to both FM radio and LPTV stations' eligibility for reimbursement, and that the Commission should not adopt a sliding scale for FM radio reimbursement based on the length of time a station will be off the air. NAB says this misguided proposal is unnecessary, especially absent any indication that funding will be insufficient to reimburse all disrupted FM radio stations. Further, it could have significant unintended consequences that would impact small and rural radio stations and their listeners.
Finally, NAB generally supports the Commission's proposed processes and requirements for reimbursement, which largely mirror the existing reimbursement framework for repacked television stations. The group is urging the Commission to slightly modify this process to increase fairness and predictability for affected broadcasters and ensure that funds are made available as quickly as possible.