Bipartisan Bill Introduced to Boost TV Station Repack Fund

Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) joined by a bipartisan quintet of fellow senators have introduced a bill to provide additional funds if the $1.75 post-incentive auction TV station repack fund is not sufficient.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai told Congress this week that the FCC was pretty sure the $1.75 billion would fall short given that broadcasters' initial estimate was north of $2.1 billion.

The Viewer and Listener Protection Act of 2017 (S. 1632) would authorize added funds to cover any shortfall in compensating TV stations for reasonable expenses, including funds to compensate FM stations,

which could be affected by TV station moves on co-located facilities.

The bill would also direct the FCC to adjust its 39-month repack transition period on a case-by-case basis "station if necessary to ensure that no broadcast television station is forced to stop broadcasting for a significant period of time." 

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) has already proposed a bill ( that would, if necessary, free up $1 billion to cover any shortfall, and compensate radio

stations, and help low power TV stations with any money left over. The Moran et al. bill would not compensate low-powers, except the ones that achieved Class A status and thus were included in the $1.75 transition fund. Other LPTVs are not protected in the repack and get no money from the fund.

"I remain very concerned that rural America will be disproportionately harmed if Congress does not take action to provide adequate resources and an appropriate timeline for the relocation of TV and radio stations,” said Moran in a statement. “The FCC’s broadcaster incentive auction brought in substantial revenue for taxpayers while empowering communications companies to enhance their networks and improve service. Now we must protect and preserve the rural communities served by broadcasters who provide vital services such as news, weather and traffic, as well as entertainment, to millions of Americans nationwide."

Also sponsoring the bill were Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Tom Udall (D-Colo.).

"NAB thanks Sens. Moran and Schatz and their colleagues for a pro-consumer, bipartisan bill that will protect tens of millions of TV viewers and radio listeners from losing local broadcasting as a result of the spectrum auction ‘repack'," said National Association of Broadcasters President Gordon Smith. "This bill addresses the nearly $400 million shortfall in the $1.75 billion repack fund. It also makes clear that no broadcaster will be forced off the air if it makes a good faith effort to meet FCC deadlines.

"Broadcasters supported the voluntary spectrum auction with an understanding that local stations not participating would not be punished. The Moran/Schatz bill -- supported by Sens. Blumenthal, Inhofe, Udall and Young -- recognizes our pledge while acknowledging the indispensable role played by local broadcasting in the fabric of American life."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.