The FCC has some good news for broadcasters that want to get a jump on the repacking process. In a Declaratory Ruling issued today, the Commission announced that “costs reasonably incurred” by broadcasters prior to the close of the Incentive Auction and the issuance of the Channel Reassignment Public Notice may be eligible for reimbursement under the TV Broadcaster Relocation Fund. The Declaratory Ruling removes a potential barrier for stations that wanted to take certain actions in preparation for the repack, such as conducting tower studies.
However, there are three constraints on obtaining reimbursement for expenses incurred before the auction is complete:
- First, only stations that are repacked and eligible for repacking funds will be reimbursed for costs incurred before the end of the auction. This
means that stations toward the upper end of the UHF band (channels 38 and above) can proceed with a high level of confidence that eligible costs will be reimbursed. Stations on channels 36 and below, however, must proceed at their own risk. Even stations that would need to be repacked based on the FCC’s initial clearing target (such as stations above channel 29 if the initial clearing target is 126 MHz) run the risk that they will not need to be repacked if the auction proceeds to another stage.
- Second, the TV Broadcaster Relocation Fund has a statutory cap of $1.75 billion. If the total relocation costs exceed that cap, not all eligible costs will be reimbursed.
- Finally, the costs must be “reasonably incurred” based on the FCC’s Catalog of Eligible Expenses and the Media Bureau’s review. If a cost would not have been eligible for reimbursement if it was incurred after the end of the auction, it also will not be eligible for reimbursement if it is incurred before the end of the auction.
In the Declaratory Ruling, the FCC expressed its hope that “allowing broadcasters to get a jump start on the relocation process . . . will
promote a rapid, non-disruptive transition following the broadcast television spectrum incentive auction.”