FCC Finalizes Auction Repack Expense Guidance

Denies most tweaks, saying there is case-by-case flexibility

The FCC has finalized its catalog of covered expenses in the broadcasters' transition to new spectrum in the post-incentive auction repack, and it has declined to make most of the tweaks proposed by commenters.

"We do not believe it is necessary to add… specific items to the Catalog because, to the extent that stations reasonably incur such expenses, they can be claimed within the appropriate cost categories or on the catch-all 'Other' line in the Reimbursement Form that is available for expenses not listed within a particular category," the FCC said in a public notice on the final catalog.

The FCC has $1.75 billion to reimburse broadcasters, and some cable operators, for expenses related to moving to new channels or sharing with other stations.

Related: FCC Adopts List of Moving Expenses

The catalog provides guidance on what will be covered, though it is not all-inclusive. In fact, it is that flexibility to look at expenses on a case-by-case basis that the FCC's Incentive Auction Task Force and Media Bureau used in declining to make a number of specific changes to the catalog.

In essence, it declined to modify or add categories, but it did say it would factor in rising costs on an annual basis or more frequently on a case-by-case basis—the latter as the National Association of Broadcasters had requested.

Among the items it is not adding is a line item for increased operating costs post-transition or for salaries for transition-related work, though the latter could fit into a catch-all category. The FCC also said it would not modify the baseline costs for professional services like engineering studies and equipment installations on towers (the latter was an ask from NCTA: The Internet & Television Association).

The FCC is looking to speed the auction to its conclusion. On Friday, it upped the per-round price increase to 15% and required bidders to use 100% of their eligibility in each round, rather than the previous 95%.

Since the broadcasters' portion of the auction is over, the FCC is already notifying stations of what their new channel assignments are so they can begin planning for the move. They will have 39 months from when the auction officially closes.