There is clarity when it comes to how much money is available to pay FM radio broadcasters for expenses incurred due to the TV spectrum repack in the United States.
The FCC now says it will cover 100% of verified estimates — instead of 92.5% — because allocations are concluding and there is still money left in a $2.75 billion relocation fund created by Congress to cover broadcasters’ expenses.
The FCC in a recent public notice explained the final reimbursement procedures for owners of FM broadcasters who share tower space with full power or Class A TV stations that participated in the incentive auction and repacking. The TV repack process, intended to create additional spectrum for wireless services, resulted in some FM broadcasters incurring costs in order to facilitate the repack stations’ construction projects.
Radio stations affected have been filing reimbursement claims but now have until Sept. 6, 2022, to submit all remaining requests for expenses.
The FCC says invoices totaling more than $1.67 billion have already been sent to the U.S. Treasury Department for processing and payment with some $34 million in invoices on hand still under review. The FCC said it took care to spend down the reimbursement fund in phases to prevent running out of money, acknowledging that estimates and expenditures were refined and changed over time as broadcasters moved forward with projects.
The Incentive Auction Task Force and Media Bureau said their cautious payment allocation approach throughout the 39-month transition period “reduced the likelihood of over-allocating funds that would then have to be reduced or issuing payments that would have to be clawed back.”
In a previous public notice released in December 2019, the FCC indicated the owners of approximately 90 FM radio stations — all co-located with TV facilities — had been assisted with projects such as building auxiliary facilities in order to remain on air throughout repack work. The FCC at the time estimated that fewer than 500 radio stations in all would be affected by the TV spectrum repack.
Congress had designated $50 million of the reimbursement fund to be set aside for FM broadcasters. The FCC previously reported that as of late 2019, just over $17 million had been allocated for FM stations.
Radio broadcasters submitting their remaining reimbursement claims should be careful to have documentation to back up any reimbursement claims. The FCC says it will begin site visits to facilities of some fund recipients to validate the existence and operational status of post-transition equipment for which entities received reimbursement. Site visits, to be conducted by a third-party contractor, are expected to begin in March 2022 and continue throughout 2022, according to the FCC notice.
The TV repack resulted in new channel assignments for 987 full power and Class A stations. The reassignments cleared approximately 60 MHz of spectrum for use by wireless licensees.
[See Radio World’s 2017 eBook “Hey Radio, Here Comes the TV Repack”]