Broadcasters will soon begin accessing the $50 million fund to help radio stations impacted by the television repack. The Federal Communications Commission has published the forms stations will need to fill out in order to be reimbursed for a variety of expenses related to technical disruptions faced during the repack. Stations will have until October 15 to submit the paperwork in order to ensure they’re reimbursed.
For most stations the process will involve the filing of an FCC Form 2100, including Schedule 399 or what’s being referred to as the Reimbursement Form. It will require stations to provide information about their existing broadcast equipment, and the estimated or actual costs for equipment needed to keep the station on the air during the repack that an operator seeks to recover.
Broadcasters will also need to tell the FCC whether they can reuse some of their existing equipment or new purchases will need to be made.
Those estimates could include such things as invoices and other supporting documents for already-incurred costs and for all of the equipment and service expenses the stations expect to incur. The FCC in a public notice announced the Oct. 15 at 11:59pm ET deadline for stations to file their cost estimates.
Each FM must also tell the FCC which full power or Class A television station being repacked is leading to the need to put technical backups in place. “If the FM station asserts that it must construct or modify interim auxiliary facilities, the FM station must certify that its primary or existing auxiliary facilities would lose more than 20% of the station’s normal covered population or more than 20% of its normal coverage area, and service would be lost for more than 24 hours and would not be limited to the hours 12 AM to 5 AM local time,” the FCC said in the notice. Stations will need to back up those claims with contour maps showing 60 and 70 dBu contours from the main transmission site for both full-power and reduced-power transmissions.
Broadcasters will also need to tell the FCC whether they can reuse some of their existing equipment or if new purchases will need to be made. And because the repack funds require a radio station to have been on the air on April 13, 2017 in order to be eligible to receive reimbursement, broadcasters will also need to certify the station was either licensed or had an application for license pending on that date.
In a second public notice, the FCC provides an outline of Form 1876. That’s the form stations will submit in order to tell the government what bank account any reimbursement payments should be deposited in.
The Commission has pledged to Congress that it will be on the look for any waste, fraud or abuse of the repack fund. In order to achieve that, the FCC is requiring stations to retain all the relevant documents related to construction or other reimbursable charges or expenses for at least 10 years after the date on which the entity receives final payment from the reimbursement fund. “A false certification may result in disqualification for reimbursement and other sanctions provided for in the Communications Act and the Commission’s rules,” the FCC also warns.
How Much? Check The Catalog
How much broadcasters will receive from the repack fund will depend on how much work they need in order to remain on the air. Earlier this year the FCC released a cost catalog that included the range of money it expects to pay for various equipment and services.
The catalog lists potential transmitter reimbursements ranging from $1,500 to as much as $354,800, depending on what sort of equipment a station needs and opts to buy, including whether the auxiliary system is analog or HD Radio-capable. The catalog also includes a price range for new antennas from as low as $4,200 to a high of $47,200. Tower-rated costs would also depend on whether a new tower needs to be built or an existing tower can be reinforced. The tallest towers cost the most to do work on and the catalog recognizes that, paying up to $409,500 for tower rigging on the biggest sticks.
There are also ranges for transmission lines, transmitter building modifications, and a variety of professional service fees covering engineers, lawyers, and other consultants. The catalog also indicates the FCC is prepared to reimburse stations for filing fees related to the paperwork that must be submitted to the agency.
The FCC has said the cost catalog contains an “extensive, but not exhaustive” list of equipment and services that are potentially reimbursable.
The $50 million radio-specific fund is likely to be just the first portion of what FM stations will be eligible to dip into. In March the Commission agreed with the National Association of Broadcasters which had argued that radio stations should also be allowed to tap into a separate $400 million set aside by Congress. But while the Commission decided that such a move would be “appropriate,” it said it would give priority to full-power TV stations.
The latest estimate from the FCC is that fewer than 500 radio stations will be affected by the television spectrum repack. That is nearly 200 less than once feared.