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Legislators Praise FCC Handling of Repack

The FCC got some love from Capitol Hill this week over its handling of the post-broadcast incentive auction repack. 

That came in an FCC budget hearing Wednesday (April 3) in the House Appropriations Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee. 

When the FCC realized the $1.75 billion Congress had allocated to cover those repack expenses, it asked for more. Congress also provided money for low-power TV stations and FM stations whose moving expenses were not initially covered by that fund, money the FCC is coming up with a framework for disbursing money to those LPTVs and FMs. 

Ranking member Tom Graves (R-Ga.) said that he thought getting the repack right was a case of everyone working together productively to help guide Congress on "the proper steps to take" to get to a final product." 

Asked for an update on the repack, FCC chair Ajit Pai said he thought it was going well and that he thought there would be enough money to hold all those stations harmless, though he emphasized that it was not just a case of handing out money, but of verifying covered costs. 

He said he wanted to be able to report back to Congress that the FCC did not spend a "single dollar" on something broadcasters should be covering themselves. But he said the "core promise" of the incentive auction that broadcasters would be transitioned without having to pay "out of their own pockets" for a relocation not of their own making, was being kept.  

The commission also got a hand for how its staffers were handling the process. 

Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Nev.) thanked both Pai, and senior Democratic commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel--both in attendance--for how both this commission and under the previous chairman. Tom Wheeler, had handled the repack, particularly working with Congress to get it right.  

He said the staff had been very responsive. "The agency has been phenomenally cooperative and a standout in my experience in eight years here. You didn't always tell what I liked, but you always responded and told the truth and did it in a timely manner and worked well. So, I want to say thank you." 

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.