FCC to Provide Reimbursements for Certain Incentive Auction-Related Expenses

 

The FCC adopted rules to reimburse certain Low Power TV (LPTV), TV translator, and FM stations for eligible expenses incurred as a result of television channel repacking following the spectrum auction.  

 

Congress provided a total of $1 billion in reimbursement funds, including supplemental funds for reimbursement of full-service, Class A television stations, multichannel video program distributors (MVPDs), consumer education, LPTV/translators, and FM.  

 

FY18 appropriations provides:

  • $150 million is for LPTV/translator stations 

  • $50 million for FM stations.  

 

The FY19 appropriation provides:  

  • $400 million, of which up to $150 million may be used for LPTV/translator reimbursement and up to $50 million for FM stations.  

  • However, the reimbursements to full-service, Class A television stations and MVPDs are first, if there is a shortfall of existing funds for those purposes, before funding LPTV/translator and FM reimbursement.

 

Eligible reimbursements:

  • LPTV and TV translator stations if (1) they filed an application during the Commission’s Special Displacement Window and obtained a construction permit, and (2) were licensed and transmitting for at least nine of the twelve months prior to April 13, 2017.  

  • Full power FM stations, low power FM stations, and FM translators that were licensed and transmitting on April 13, 2017, using the facilities affected by a repacked television station. This includes FM stations that incur costs to permanently relocate, temporarily or permanently modify their facilities, or purchase or modify auxiliary facilities to provide service during work on a repacked television station’s facilities.

  • 100 percent of eligible costs will be reimbursed for FM stations that must relocate permanently or temporarily, or permanently modify facilities, or purchase or modify auxiliary equipment to avoid going silent as a result of the repacking process.  An FM station might need to move its antenna, either temporarily or permanently, to accommodate a television station’s change or may need to power down or cease operating temporarily to permit a repacked television broadcaster to modify its facilities. 

 

The FCC estimates that fewer than 500 full-service FM stations will be affected by television repacking.

 

Non-eligible reimbursements:

  • Minor interruption of service.  Disruption of service requiring interim facilities because of being forced off air for less than 24 hours or only between midnight and 5:00 a.m. is considered minor.  Also, an FM station will not be eligible for reimbursement unless without expenditures for temporary service it would lose over 20 percent of either its normal covered population or its normal coverage area as a result of repack-related work and it would achieve those benchmarks with the expenditures.

 

Priority for reimbursement will to FM stations that must relocate permanently, be forced to temporarily dismantle equipment or make minor changes.  Stations forced to temporarily reduce power or cease transmission on the primary facility, for example to avoid undue RF exposure for riggers, would be reimbursed only if funds are still available.

 

The FCC will not reimburse LPTV/translator or FM stations for costs for which they have already received reimbursement funding from other sources.  In the “no good deed goes unpunished” department, this aspect of the decision affects T-Mobile’s prior voluntary reimbursement of costs for solutions to translator displacement.  Also, as with the reimbursement program for full-power and Class A stations, there will be no reimbursement for lost revenues due to repack disruption.

 

The reimbursement process will be very similar to that already used for full-service and Class A television stations.  There is a Catalog of eligible expenses that includes anticipated common expenses, https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DA-19-176A2.pdf, although expenses not listed will be considered.  There will be a somewhat complex system for filing for reimbursement, with reasonable reimbursement provided for seeking professional help in the process, as well as for legal and consulting engineering fees incurred in applying for needed FCC authorizations.

 

The FCC will prioritize payments to full power, Class A, and MVPD entities over payments to LPTV/translator and FM stations, meaning that the $400 million appropriated for fiscal year 2019 may well not reach LPTV/translator and FM stations.  

 

This is a summary of a very detailed Order.  There are many other provisions with respect to expenses eligible for reimbursement, priorities, funding of the reimbursement pool, and claim procedures.  The FCC will answer questions or to advise on specific situations, and to assist with application for interim facilities or required new facilities.

 

The FCC’s Public Notice is at https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DOC-356592A1.pdf.  The text of the Report and Order adopting the new reimbursement rules is available athttps://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/FCC-19-21A1.pdf.

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