FCC Signals Second Tranche of Repack Bucks

The Incentive Auction Task Force and the Media Bureau said Thursday (March 8) that there would be an additional allocation coming from the $1.75 billion incentive auction repack fund.

The FCC says it has now received both verified and unverified expenses that total $1.95 billion, so it was time to dip into the fund once more, which will come in the next 4-6 weeks, or perhaps in time for broadcasters to celebrate the infusion at the National Association of Broadcasters convention in early April.

The FCC signaled there would be multiple allocations following its almost $1 billion initial allocation last October to cover expenses related to moving to new channels after the auction. It has also signaled that the $1.75 billion would not be enough.

Related: Pai Signals FCC to Start New Spectrum Auctions This Year

At the time, that represented 52% of commercial broadcasters' verified cost estimates and about 62% of noncoms.

The FCC said the new money was coming even though most eligible entities--TV stations and some cable operators--are not yet close to exhausting their initial allocation. That was because it said a number looked like they would soon reach or in some cases exceed that initial outlay.

The second allocation wouldn't exhaust the $1.75 billion fund, said the FCC, but rather provide enough to continue the transition process. It will continue to give noncoms about 10% more than commercial stations given their "unique funding constraints."

Related: Noncoms Seek More Money, Flexibility, in Repack

“NAB appreciates the FCC decision to release additional funding to cover a larger share of broadcaster costs related to the spectrum ‘repack," said National Association of Broadcasters executive VP Dennis Wharton. "We intend to work with policymakers to ensure that broadcasters are quickly and fairly compensated for these expenses. Our overriding goal is a successful repack that protects viewers and is completed as expeditiously as possible.”

There will be even more money available, perhaps $1 billion-plus if/when the Ray Baum Act passes the senate. The bill, which passed the House earlier this week, would free up more money for the repack as needed, and new money for low power TVs, translators and FM stations.

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.