How much can I receive? And what’s covered?
Those are questions that radio broadcasters affected by the TV band repack can get answered when it comes to being reimbursed by the federal government.
At its March meeting, the Federal Communications Commission said that FM broadcast stations, television translators and LPTVs are eligible for reimbursement if their facilities have been affected by a repacked television station, assuming the stations have been in operation for a stipulated amount of time. The commission finalized and released a catalog that details potentially reimbursable costs.
Earlier, Congress had appropriated $1 billion in funding as part of the 2018 Reimbursement Expansion Act. Of the $600 million available in fiscal 2018 and $400 million in 2019, the REA stipulated that up to $50 million be used to reimburse FM stations, and up to $150 million for LPTVs and TV translators.
To help broadcasters keep track of what is potentially reimbursable, the Incentive Auction Task Force at the FCC finalized its cost “catalog.” A draft had been circulated earlier. The catalog is a 20-page document that can be found at https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DA-19-176A2.pdf.
The FCC adopted rules to reimburse both hard and soft expenses for FM stations that must replace or modify equipment, as well as stations that must construct or upgrade auxiliary facilities in order to minimize disruption of service. “Hard” expenses include new equipment and tower rigging; “soft” include legal and engineering services.
The goal of the catalog is to give stations a list of ranges for use as estimates when they do not have vendor quotes and to help them establish acceptable price ranges. These provide guidance only, the FCC clarified; they do not serve as price caps, and stations can submit additional cost justification documentation if needed, the commission said.
Earlier, NPR had expressed a concern that the draft version of the catalog limited the range of equipment and services that is potentially reimbursable.
“We reiterate that the cost catalog is a non-exhaustive list of equipment and services,” the FCC said in finalizing the catalog. “It is intended to serve as a reference guide that will add structure to the process of claiming reimbursement by identifying the types of equipment and services that are most commonly required to construct new broadcast facilities, as well as their price ranges.”
For equipment or services not listed in the catalog, the form provides flexibility for users to claim reimbursement for such reasonably incurred expenses.
The final version includes other changes, such as a modification requested by NPR that the initial price range proposed in the draft for “lease negotiations or other legal matters” for FM stations should be equivalent with the range for LPTV and translator stations.
The FCC also amended the catalog to add a line for FM stations looking to purchase a combined HD importer/exporter, a relatively new type of product that combines an HD Radio importer and exporter into one unit.
The commission also added a broader range of program management and consulting costs as part of the professional services category, since “local public radio stations are likely to need ‘legal, engineering and consulting services to assist with overall planning, determining the specific steps needed to minimize disruption, and procuring equipment, labor and services,’” the report said.
The FCC also updated the catalog amounts for filing fees associated with certain Media Bureau applications that FMs, LPTVs and translators may need to implement changes necessary to remain on the air during the repack.