Earlier this week, we wrote about some of the upcoming dates for broadcasters in the TV incentive auction process – particularly those dealing with the repacking process. Developments continue, with the FCC yesterday issuing a Public Notice announcing that stations that relinquished their spectrum in the incentive auction will be receiving their payouts from the proceeds of the auction – with such payouts beginning immediately as they can be processed by the Treasury Department. The Public Notice also details the process for these stations to cease operating on their current channels. It includes an attachment (here) setting out the deadlines for stations receiving payouts to abandon their current channel – either to go off the air, to commence a channel sharing arrangement with another station or to move to a VHF channel. The stations going off the air are to cease operations by October 25, 2017 and those entering into channel sharing arrangements have a deadline to abandon their current channels by January 23, 2018 (though both dates can be extended in certain situations). Channel sharing stations have until November 24, 2017 to file construction permit applications to modify their facilities to specify the details of the sharing. Look to the Public Notice for more details of these deadlines.
For those stations not selling their spectrum but being repacked to accommodate the smaller TV band following the incentive auction, yesterday brought news that New Jersey Congressman Frank Pallone introduced a bill in Congress, the Viewer Protection Act of 2017, seeking to increase the availability of funds to reimburse the costs incurred by TV stations being repacked following the incentive auction (as well as MVPDs who need to make changes in their facilities to accommodate the repacking of the TV stations). The bill would also, for the first time, make radio stations whose operations are disrupted by the repacking eligible for reimbursement of any reasonable relocation costs incurred because of the repacking. Even LPTV stations and TV translators displaced by the repacking of full-service stations could be eligible for reimbursement of their expenses. An additional $1 billion is authorized to supplement, if necessary, the $1.75 billion already authorized to reimburse repacked TV stations and MVPDs for their costs incurred as a result of the changes in TV station channels brought on by the changes in the TV band following the incentive auction. Funds are also provided for consumer education. Obviously, this is just the proposal of one Congressman that still needs to be adopted by the House and Senate before it becomes law, but it is certainly a step welcomed by many broadcasters since last week’s announcement that the claimed reimbursements exceeded the available reimbursement funds.