Programmers: Keep IRDs out of Lump C-Band Payments

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Broadcasters have teamed up with TV content companies--broadcast and cable--to ask the FCC not to allow MVPDs to include integrated receiver/decoder equipment (IRDs) in the lump sum they can opt for in their move out of C-Band spectrum, arguing that would artificially inflate the payments to cable operators.

IRDs receive and decode satellite signals from programmers.

That pitch was made to Aaron Goldberger, legal advisor to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, by the National Association of Broadcasters and representatives of A+E, Discovery, Fox, Disney, Univision, and ViacomCBS (collectively the "content companies").

They argue that the expenses are properly assigned to programmers and satellite operators, not MVPDs. Categorizing IRD costs "would both artificially enlarge the amount of the “lump sum” payments available to MVPDs and undermine the goal of a timely, spectrally efficient transition that preserves viewers’ uninterrupted access to the most popular news, sports, entertainment, and other programming."

NCTA-the Internet & Television Association argues that it is appropriate to include IRD costs in lump sum payments "to the extent an average earth station operator reasonably would expect to pay such expenses itself if it elected to submit actual costs for reimbursement."

The content companies suggest that would balkanize the process impeding a smooth transition out of the lower C-Band.

"Centralizing the compression upgrade process with satellite operators and programmers—the parties that have historically maintained responsibility for these upgrades—would enable coordinated installation of the correct IRDs across distribution networks that consist of thousands of earth stations," the companies told Goldberger. "Conversely, placing the transition into the hands of hundreds of MVPDs would force satellite operators and programmers to engage with a patchwork of MVPD earth stations, each of which would be subject to their own procurement standards and upgrade timelines."

The FCC is currently collecting comment on satellite operator transition plans. The FCC is moving incumbent satellite operators out of the lower 300 MHz of the band to auction spectrum for 5G wireless.

The C-Band is used to distribute network programming to broadcasters and cable operators and remote signals to studios.

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.