NAB Fights to Ensure FMs Aren’t Cheated Out of Repack Money
NAB is worried some FM broadcasters will be shorted on repack reimbursement money. The FCC is set to vote today on an item to develop rules to distribute $50 million that Congress approved earlier this year for radio, low-power TV stations and TV translators impacted by the full-power television station channel repack. The agency believes fewer than 500 FMs will be impacted by the tower and antenna work.
The broadcast lobbying organization thinks the Commission mis-interpreted the intent of Congress for that fund distribution. Thedraft Notice of Proposed Rulemaking “improperly states” the FCC can only reimburse FMs, LPTVs and TV translators from Fiscal Year 2018 funds, NAB says in filings describing recent lobbying efforts. At a “bare minimum,” the agency should seek comment on the availability of funds from the Fiscal Year 2019 allocation, according to the broadcast trade lobby.
NAB was “surprised” and is concerned about the Commission’s tentative conclusion the FCC should adopt a graduated payment scale to reimburse FMs co-located on a TV tower to remain on-air while the TV station is repacked. The FCC proposed reimbursing up to 100 percent of FMs that must permanently move or temporarily modify their facilities. But it proposed a graduated system to reimburse stations that need to buy or modify their Auxiliary site in order to remain on-air.
Approving a graduated system before the repack is complete “raises a number of concerns and fails to seriously consider other options,” says NAB. If truly worried about having limited funds, the Commission should also consider as a model how it initially reimbursed TV broadcasters – “allocating a significant percentage of funds up front and then truing-up payments once it is clear the fund will not be fully depleted.”