NAB: Needs Answers On Repacking Moving Expenses ASAP

The National Association of Broadcasters has told the FCC it needs to issue a separate "notice-and-comment rulemaking process" ASAP to deal with repacking reimbursement issues.

The incentive auction statute directed the FCC to set aside $1.75 billion from auction proceeds for a broadcaster relocation fund (with cable and satellite operators also able to tap that for any expenses in carrying those changed channels).

The FCC is preparing to vote May 15 on a framework for the broadcast incentive auctions, including on repacking, but the NAB says the commission's recent report from outside consultant Widelity on new figures for potential covered expenses in the repacking and moving of TV stations was only a first step.

NAB says that the commission has so far failed to provide "any information as to how the Commission will use the report, or how relocating broadcasters will receive reimbursement for all expenses they incur in repacking."

In comments on the Widelity report filed this week, NAB said that there could be unanticipated costs and delays that could take the transition beyond the three-year sunset for reimbursement.

It argues that one key question is whether the FCC will treat the report's cost estimates as an upper limit or merely guidance—NAB says it should be the latter.

But NAB also said it can't really provide meaningful input on the study until the FCC answers that and other questions, including whether the FCC will use that $1.75 billion to estimate how many stations it can repack, how it plans to provide that reimbursement, who all will be eligible for the money, and whether the FCC will provide the money in two stages, the second being a true-up to take care of any unanticipated extra costs.

Some broadcasters have warned that if the FCC does not get the framework rules right, the auction could wind up in court.

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.