Congress should pass legislation to ensure their constituents do not lose access to local television and radio stations following the broadcast spectrum incentive auction due to a lack of funds or unreasonable time constraints for station relocation.
When Congress authorized the broadcast spectrum incentive auction, broadcasters were assured that participation was voluntary and that non-participating stations would not be penalized.
To this end, Congress authorized a $1.75 billion Television Broadcaster Relocation Fund to cover the reasonable costs necessary to relocate, or repack, broadcasters to new channel assignments following this auction. Congress also included a three-year timeline for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reimburse broadcasters.
The FCC developed a relocation plan that requires almost 1,000 TV stations to relocate. This is likely to cost significantly more and take much longer than envisioned by Congress. In fact, location costs could exceed the fund by hundreds of millions of dollars.
The Commission also has imposed an arbitrary 39-month deadline by which television stations must complete their moves or go off the air, leaving viewers and listeners without access to critical information. Further complicating this complex transition, many towers that are home to television stations that must relocate are also home to radio stations. Relocation work could threaten listener access to these radio stations.
Matters outside of broadcasters’ control further complicate the process. There are a small number of qualified crews for modifying broadcast towers, antennas and transmission lines and a shortage of antennas available for purchase. A shortage of manpower and transmission equipment could leave broadcasters unable to meet arbitrary FCC deadlines, jeopardizing stations’ ability to deliver the services and content viewers and listeners depend on – local news, emergency updates, sports and entertainment.
Your constituents should not lose access to any local station due to arbitrary and unachievable deadlines set by the FCC, nor should stations be left to foot the bill for hundreds of millions of dollars simply because the Commission could not adhere to its congressionally-set budget.