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Congress advances fix to spectrum repack fund

-Clarifies translators, includes SANDy Act

In a stroke of good timing, Texas broadcasters last week converged on the Lone Star State’s congressional delegation in DC and urged them to take immediate steps to address the shortfall in the current spectrum repack fund – just as appropriations bills for fiscal years 2018 and 2019 were being teed up for adoption later this month. The House since then speedily scheduled the FCC reauthorization bill containing the needed language and fund accounts and approved the measure on a voice vote March 6th.

Known as RAY BAUM’S Act (HR 4986), the legislation includes the authorizing framework to create additional accounts to reimburse all full-power TV, LPTV and FM stations and translators for costs of the spectrum repack.

Thanks to Rep. Bill Flores, R-Waco, who co-authored related legislation, a bipartisan, bicameral agreement was reached on Friday ensuring the measure now expressly allows for FM translators to be covered as he intended with his separate measure.

The additional appropriations to the repack fund include:

  • $750 million for full-power TV stations
  • $50 million for FM Radio stations, including translators
  • Up to $200 million for LPTV stations and TV translators

The bill also includes the SANDy Act which would allow broadcasters improved access to their facilities for maintenance or repairs during times of emergency.

TAB met with 31 of the state’s 38 congressional offices over two days, addressing the spectrum repack, next year’s reauthorization of the satellite TV act and broadcasters’ continued opposition to a Performance Tax.

The meetings were held in conjunction with NAB’s Annual State Leadership Conference which included a special tribute to Texas broadcasters’ service to their communities before and after Hurricane Harvey and the presentation of the inaugural NAB Broadcast Champion Award to Rep. Gene Green, D-Houston.

Green, who’s retiring this year after 26 years in Congress and 24 years on the House Energy & Commerce Committee, has been the Democratic lead in the fight against a Performance Tax. Throughout his tenure, Green has championed broadcasters’ position on other issues ranging from retransmission consent to free airtime for political candidates.

Music royalties/copyright legislation
Regarding the Performance Tax, broadcasters have garnered 220 co-sponsors in the House – greater than the 218 majority needed – for HConRes 13, known as The Local Radio Freedom Act, which opposes imposing an additional royalty on local Radio stations.

While the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee has stated he intends to advance copyright reform legislation before he retires later this year, he has underscored that only “consensus” measures will advance.

Such measures will likely include the Music Modernization Act, AMP Act, and CLASSICS Act (which involves streaming of pre-1972 music) – none of which is opposed by broadcasters.

Questions? Contact TAB’s Oscar Rodriguez or call (512) 322-9944.

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