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FCC Launches LPTV/Translator Repack Reimbursement

The FCC has voted unanimously on a proposed framework for handing out the $1 billion Congress has authorized to 1) pay for LPTV, translator and FM expenses related to the broadcast incentive auction and, more specifically, post-auction TV station repack, and 2) provide additional money for full power and Class A's and MVPDs impacted by the auction and for a consumer education campaign.

In the legislation approving the new funding, Congress gave the FCC until March 23, 2019, to come up with a reimbursement process, so it is on the clock. The Reimbursement Expansion Act designated $600 million in 2018 and another $400 million in 2019.
The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking concludes that: 

"LPTV and TV translator stations are eligible for reimbursement 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, as required by the REA. It also tentatively concludes that both full power FM stations and FM translators that were licensed and transmitting on April 13, 2017, using the facilities affected by a repacked television station, are eligible for reimbursement. The NPRM proposes that 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. The NPRM further recommends a mechanism for reimbursing the newly eligible entities that is substantially similar to the process currently used by the Commission to reimburse full power and Class A licensees and MVPDs."

There is an accompanying order that directs the Media Bureau to hire a contractor to help administer the reimbursement fund for LPTVs/translators and FM stations, which will be handled similarly to the one already in place for full power TVs and class A's. LPTVs, translators and FMS must certify eligibility with the FCC and provide information on equipment and cost estimates. 

The National Association of Broadcasters was pleased with the move. 

“Earlier this year, Congress wisely authorized additional funding to ensure that tens of millions of Americans will not lose access to news, entertainment and lifeline information during the broadcast industry ‘spectrum repack,'" said NAB SVP Dennis Wharton. "NAB is encouraged by the FCC proposal adopted today that closely mirrors the intent of Congress. NAB will be actively engaged during the rulemaking process to preserve live and local broadcasting on hometown radio and television stations, low power TV stations and TV translators.”

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.