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Congress eyes spectrum repack needs

 - Groundwork for boosting fund, extending deadline

Congressional appropriations committees in the Senate and House have concurred with broadcasters that the TV spectrum repack may need additional time to complete and more funding than initially projected in order to ensure no viewers lose their local TV stations and that broadcasters are kept financially whole. Both promises were part of the legislation that authorized the voluntary incentive spectrum auction.

Extensive research by the NAB and other parties shows that an estimated 1,200 TV stations will need to repack and the process will take as long as eight years – far longer than the 39-month timeframe established by the spectrum auction legislation. Such findings also predict the $1.75 billion relocation fund to reimburse broadcasters could fall well short of actual costs.

After months of lobbying by NAB and state broadcasters associations, both committees have signed off on language in their respective spending blueprints that serves as a placeholder for more specific instructions to be developed once the full impact of the spectrum auction is known later this year.

TAB secured the support of the state’s four members of the House Appropriations Committee for inserting the necessary language in the spending plans which began taking shape in February.  Texas TV broadcasters are encouraged to express their thanks to Reps. John Carter, R-Round Rock; Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo; John Culberson, R-Houston; and Kay Granger, R-Arlington.

Neither Sen. John Cornyn nor Ted Cruz serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

While the House language focuses squarely on the spectrum repack and relocation fund, the Senate language delves into other broadcast related issues, including:

TV Joint Sales Arrangements – Reiterates Congress’ support for the continuing operation of existing TV JSAs, regardless of the assignment or transfer of the stations involved in those agreements, and opposes any new FCC action to attribute JSAs.

ATSC 3.0 – Encourages the FCC to move forward with the ATSC 3.0 standard as expeditiously as possible so that TV broadcasters may purchase facilities and equipment they need as they plan their spectrum repack activities, thereby avoiding unnecessary expenditures.

The spectrum repack, ATSC 3.0 and the FCC’s regulatory proceedings on these issues will be the subject of three different programs at TAB’s Annual Convention Aug. 10-11 in Austin.


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

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