FCC to Congress: Show Broadcasters The Money

Broadcasters’ initial estimate of the cost of station moves came to $2.1 billion

Broadcasters came just short of saying “I told you so” last week after FCC chairman Ajit Pai conceded that Congress’ $1.75 billion fund to compensate broadcasters and multichannel video programming distributors for their post-spectrum auction move was unlikely to be enough.

The broadcasters’ initial estimate of the cost of the move came to $2.1 billion, with still more stations to weigh in. But there was still the possibility the FCC would shave some off that figure as the commission vetted the estimates to see if they squared with the “reasonable expenses” test.

But Pai told a hill hearing panel last week that the FCC had concluded the $1.75 didn’t look to be enough and Congress would need to come up with more money if it wanted to hold broadcasters — and, by extension, affected viewers — harmless.

Enter Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), who last week introduced a bill to fuel the fund with an extra billion dollars if broadcasters need it. In addition, he said that money could be used for paying FM radio stations who might be affected (those co-located on the same towers as TV stations, for instance) as part of the move, with whatever was left over available to help low-powers and translators, who are not protected in the repack.