Congressman proposes more cash for spectrum repack after auction

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A draft bill submitted Tuesday on Capitol Hill would add $1 billion toward repacking costs for television stations after the upcoming FCC spectrum auction.

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, titled his proposal the Viewer Protection Act. He recommends allocating $90 million to the FCC for an outreach campaign to educate viewers on how repacking may affect television channels. It also includes $1 billion to aid stations after they use $1.75 billion already set aside for repacking costs. After the auction, channels will shift through a repack to make more efficient use of the spectrum.

The bill also would allow the FCC to give stations extensions past the 39-month repacking deadline.

The National Association of Broadcasters voiced its support for the bill. “Millions of viewers reliant on broadcast television could be seriously harmed if this auction is not handled correctly,” said spokesperson Dennis Wharton.

Wharton called the proposal “a smart, consumer-friendly approach that addresses urgent repacking issues that must be addressed to achieve a successful and truly voluntary incentive auction.”

Television broadcasters must decide by next week whether to participate in the auction, which will clear and reorganize spectrum for use by mobile devices.

The bill has not yet been formally introduced and has no co-sponsors.