WASHINGTON — In reply comments to the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking concerning repack reimbursement, submitted Oct. 26, the National Association of Broadcasters’ Rick Kaplan, Patrick McFadden and Robert Weller told the Federal Communications Commission that NAB supports fully reimbursing bystander FM and TV stations affected by the spectrum repack using the additional Congressional funding.
First, NAB says it agrees with National Public Radio’s assertion that the graduated reimbursement plan would likely force some stations permanently off the air. NAB says, “This proposal strays far from Congress’s clear goal of minimizing listener disruption and would leave many stations paralyzed by uncertainty and their listeners without service.”
Furthermore, NAB says, “The repack is not an Act of God; it is the result of policy choices … The FCC chose to develop a repacking approach that did not consider FM radio stations, make any effort to minimize disruption to those stations or allow sufficient time to ensure that work could be completed during off-peak hours.” Therefore, the association says the FCC should “fully reimburse bystander FM radio stations for reasonable costs associated with maintaining service during the repack.”
NAB also seconded the National Translator Association’s fast-track proposal, a plan under which “stations that agreed to limit repacking expenses to $31,000 or less” would submit invoices documenting their expenses rather than first submitting proposals or cost estimates. NTA and NAB both note that detailed cost estimates would be burdensome for small staffs — and eliminating some paperwork would relieve the commission’s staff as well. NAB also speculated that some stations might opt for the cost-capped fast-track approach just for simplicity’s sake, which might act as a cost control measure inadvertently. The association supports the idea further because a similar process was implemented during the 800 MHz band reconfiguration.
NAB also addressed several other issues in its reply comments, all of which NAB says boil down to remembering that the commission’s focus should be on protecting listeners and viewers’ interests.
The association cites Cox Media Group Florida station WFOX(TV) as a potential casualty of the proposed reimbursement plan. The station “will be forced to undergo significant additional expenses unrelated to its own repacking to remain on the air” because of the repacking activities of other stations. Because of the additional funding, NAB asks whether some of it should be used to help WFOX stay on the air.
However, NAB cautions that the funds should not go to “third parties that have already agreed to provide funding to previously ineligible entities.” NAB specifically calls out T-Mobile, saying “There is no reason for the commission to act as an insurer for that commitment now, particularly if the commission has any concern at all that funding may be inadequate.” NAB reminds the FCC that T-Mobile’s commitment was made voluntarily and said ”reimbursement for T-Mobile should be the lowest priority for the commission.”
Nonetheless, NAB agrees with Microsoft’s proposal “to allow displaced LPTV stations to seek reimbursement for filters that comply with the full service transmission mask for low-power broadcasters” because “NAB supports steps to increase efficiency, and improved spectral efficiency may allow better use of the spectrum.” But again, the association says this should only be allowed after those directly impacted by the repack are reimbursed.