Who’s There? FCC to Spot-Check Stations

TV stations need to make sure their technological house is in order.

The FCC will start conducting spot checks of broadcasters to make sure they actually have the equipment they identified in their reimbursement forms seeking money for the post-incentive auction repack.

The regulator has signaled it would send a third-party contractor to check roughly five dozen of the 957 stations seeking funds for their repack moves, but it isn’t saying which broadcasters will draw the short straws.

The FCC is giving TV stations and pay TV distributors $1 billion to cover initial expenses in the repacking of close to 1,000 TV stations following the auction. That’s less than broadcasters wanted, but the FCC said it should cover what they need to get going.

The initial broadcaster cost estimate for the entirety of the channel moves was $2.139 billion, but the FCC was able to reduce that to $1.864 billion (still above the $1.75 billion Congress has allocated). That figure will likely increase due to added costs, such as tower rigging, that broadcasters did not include.

The FCC wants to ensure they have the equipment they want the FCC to pay to upgrade. So, say, they don’t do the equivalent of filing with their insurance company for a damaged new Mercedes that turns out to have been a 2004 Honda Odyssey. Broadcasters should be on the lookout for a surprise visit starting now and extending through May.

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.