Congress should pass legislation to ensure their constituents do not lose access to local television and radio stations following the government-mandated TV station moves taking place in the coming years.
In 2012, Congress authorized the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to hold an auction to reallocate broadcast airwaves for wireless broadband services. During this process, local TV stations were encouraged to relinquish their airwaves and in turn, the government sold those airwaves to wireless companies and shared a portion of the proceeds with participating TV stations.
Congress assured broadcasters that participation was voluntary and non-participating stations would not be harmed. Congress authorized a $1.75 billion Television Broadcaster Relocation Fund to cover the costs necessary to move stations to new channels to make room for wireless carriers after the auction.
The auction recently concluded and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has determined nearly 1,000 remaining TV stations must move. Further complicating this process, many radio stations share towers with moving TV stations, and tower work threatens listeners access to these stations.
Station moves are likely to cost significantly more and take much longer than envisioned by Congress. In fact, costs could exceed the fund by hundreds of millions of dollars. The FCC also imposed an arbitrary 39-month deadline by which local TV stations must complete their moves or go off the air, leaving viewers and listeners without access to critical information.
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 their local broadcast 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. For more information and to see how your district will be impacted, visit nab.org/TVStationMoves.