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TAB pushes measure to protect viewers, stations in TV repack

Concerned that the FCC is pursuing a TV spectrum repacking plan that is likely to cost much more and take much longer than envisioned by Congress, TAB is alerting lawmakers of the potential need to modify deadlines and increase the TV relocation fund to ensure viewers do not lose access to their local stations.

When Congress authorized the incentive spectrum auction scheduled for launch in March, they took steps to ensure that stations’ existing coverage areas were protected and that stations choosing to stay on-air were fully compensated for costs related to changing channel assignments.

While it is unknown which stations will have to move or how long it will take them to do so, it is clear the 39-month repack deadline the FCC has arbitrarily adopted will fall far short of the time needed because of a shortage of engineering crews and transmission equipment. Failure to extend this timeframe could strip communities of some of their local TV stations.

The FCC also is on pace to bust the $1.75 billion budget Congress established for reimbursing remaining stations for all repacking costs by anywhere from $250 million to $1.25 billion, depending on the number of stations that join the auction. This could mean out-of-pocket costs of as much as $1 million per TV station unless Congress acts.

As TAB reported on Nov. 9, 2015, a study commissioned by the NAB supports these industry concerns.  Rep. Frank Pallone, D-New Jersey, earlier this month released a discussion draft of potential legislation addressing these issues.

Because of the fluid nature of the auction and repacking plan, it may be months before policymakers know for certain what changes are needed. Knowing the election season slows Congressional deliberations and dominates policy discussions, TAB and other industry groups are acting now to put the issue on lawmakers’ agenda well before budget bill deadlines kick in later this year.

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

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