Broadcast Spectrum to Help Pay Unemployment Benefits

Turns out broadcasters and members of Congress will both be helping to pay the $30 billion bill for extending unemployment benefits through Dec. 2012.

According to a summary of the conference report on a payroll tax break/unemployment insurance compromise package agreed to by congressional conferees, the cost of that benefit extension is being paid for by spectrum auctions, as well as making civilian federal employees and members of Congress contribute more to their defined benefit pensions.

The Treasury is projected to get at least half that figure -- $15 billion -- from the auction of reclaimed broadcast spectrum. FCC authority to pay broadcasters to give up spectrum remained part of the payroll tax package as one of the "pay-fors" required of any proposed new spending, though the money to from auctions won't be coming in for several years. Estimates for a completed spectrum auction process vary from four to as much as 10 years., the statutory deadline for completing the auctions according to the legislation.

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.