This legislation represents a tremendous win for broadcasters!
To recap, the bill:
– Appropriates $1 billion in additional repack funds over two fiscal years – $600 million in the current fiscal year (FY18), which runs through September 30, 2018; and $400 million in the upcoming fiscal year (FY19), which begins on October 1, 2018. These funds do not expire until 2023.
– Expands the categories of entities eligible for these funds. In addition to addressing the funding needs of full power broadcasters beyond the current $1.75 billion fund, the bill makes FM radio stations (including FM translators), low power TV stations, and TV translators eligible to recoup repack-related costs from these additional appropriations.
– Sets aside $50 million to bolster FCC consumer education efforts relating to channel moves.
– Includes provisions from the SANDy Act, which designates both tv and radio broadcasters as “essential service providers” during times of emergency. This prevents a federal agency from impeding access to your facilities to enable repair or restoration of service during an emergency or major disaster.
In terms of specifics, the legislation directs the FCC to allocate the $600 million in FY18 funds across all four categories of eligible recipients, however it includes the following limitations: no more than $350 million to full power television, no more than $50 million to FM radio, no more than $150 million to low power television / translators, and $50 million to fund consumer education efforts. The FCC has discretion as to how to allocate the $400 million in FY19 funds.