House committee authorizes additional funding for repack, including radio costs

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The House Energy and Commerce Committee voted Wednesday in support of additional funding to help broadcasters repack channels in response to last year’s spectrum auction.

The bill would provide the FCC with an additional $322 million per year in fiscal years 2019 and 2020 for helping broadcasters pay for repacking. Some of that money would be designated to help radio stations affected by repacking, which so far have not been eligible for FCC funds.

Last year, broadcasters asked for $2.1 billion from the FCC, including $336 million to aid 149 pubcasters. A CPB report also estimated that more than 200 public radio stations may need to accommodate repacked TV stations.

Congress has so far allocated $1.75 billion. America’s Public Television Stations “has consistently warned both Congress and the FCC that this fund would not cover these costs,” APTS President Pat Butler told Current last year. Fourteen public TV stations need to repack by Nov. 30.

“This legislation significantly advances Congress’ commitment to hold broadcasters harmless in the spectrum auction process recently concluded,” Butler said in a statement. “Public television stations will be able to pursue their essential public service missions in education, public safety and civic leadership without fear of going off the air for lack of sufficient funds to complete the post-auction transition.”

Butler added that “the unanimous vote of the Committee today bodes well for a successful resolution of this very troublesome issue.”

The legislation also includes funds for repacking TV translators. T-Mobile has promised to pay repacking costs for public TV translators.

The bill proceeds to the full House for consideration as an amendment to an FCC reauthorization.

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