On Friday, President Trump signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 (H.R.1625), which includes an amended version of the Repack Airwaves Yielding Better Access for Users of Modern Services (RAY BAUM’S) Act of 2018 (H.R.4986), funding for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and funding for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

While the $1.3 trillion spending bill covers a lot of ground, many broadcasters will be interested in the new funding designated to help not only full power television stations, but also LPTV, TV translator, and FM radio stations affected by the post-incentive auction repack.  The bill allocates $1 billion to the existing TV Broadcaster Relocation Fund ($600 million in fiscal year 2018 and $400 million in fiscal year 2019) to be used to reimburse relocation costs of eligible broadcaster and multichannel video programming distributors, television translator stations and low-power television stations, and FM broadcast radio stations.  The bill also authorizes the FCC to use up to $50 million from the TV Broadcaster Relocation Fund for consumer education.

Specifically:

Extended Time for Disbursement of Repack Funds.  After April 13, 2020, the FCC may continue drawing from the TV Broadcaster Relocation Fund upon certification that existing funds are insufficient to meet reasonably incurred costs.

Payment of Reallocation Costs of Translator and Low Power Television Stations.  The bill requires the Commission to reimburse costs reasonably incurred by translator or low-power television stations on or after January 1, 2017, for relocation or reorganization associated with the broadcast incentive auction.  Only stations that are eligible to file and do file an application in the special displacement window are eligible for reimbursement.  In fiscal year 2018, no more than $150 million may be used to reimburse eligible translator and LPTV stations.  The FCC may not reimburse lost revenues, make duplicative payments, or reimburse costs to resolve mutually exclusive applications.

Payment of Relocation Costs of FM Broadcast Stations.  The bill requires the FCC to reimburse costs reasonably incurred by FM broadcast stations for relocation associated with the broadcast incentive auction.  In fiscal year 2018, no more than $50 million may be used to reimburse eligible FM broadcast stations.  The FCC may not reimburse lost revenues or make duplicative payments.

We expect the FCC to develop procedures in the coming months for the disbursement of repack funds to TV translator, LPTV and FM radio stations, which will include determining how to allocate a finite amount of funds to what is likely to be a large number of eligible recipients.

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