FCC's O'Rielly: Declaring Repack Fund Insufficient May Be Premature

But supports holding broadcasters, including FM stations, harmless

FCC commissioner Michael O'Rielly is telling Congress that it may be a little early to declare the $1.75 billion post-auction repack fund insufficient and that broadcasters, including affected FM stations, should be held harmless in the repack.

FM stations are not now eligible for payments, which he called a potential oversight of the legislation that he had a hand in crafting as a Hill aide.

In testimony for a House Communications Subcommittee hearing July 25, O'Rielly pointed out the FCC has yet to "scrub" the broadcaster/MVPD estimates of repack expenses ($2.139 billion vs. the $1.75 billion Congress set aside) and added that as someone who was "integrally involved" in the spectrum legislation, he is sure Congress meant to hold repacked broadcasters "harmless."

"More explicitly," he said, according to a copy of the testimony, "staff had the clear assignment to ensure that American full-power television viewers (or radio listeners) would not face the loss of programming." He said the goal of the legislation was to make sure repacked broadcasters "were neither shortchanged nor overcompensated."

And while he said it might be "premature" to say that funding will not be necessary, he agrees that is likely the case and that he would support additional "limited" funding to make sure the repack is a success.

In his testimony, FCC chairman Ajit Pai says he is confident the $1.75 billion won't be enough and Congress will need to step in.