NPR urges FCC to provide ‘full reimbursement’ for radio stations affected by repack

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Public radio stations should be fully reimbursed for the costs of moving their antennas to avoid service disruptions as TV stations shift to new channel assignments following the FCC’s spectrum auction, NPR said in comments filed at the agency this week.

Temporary or permanent shifts in antenna locations could be required for some FM stations to accommodate repacking from the auction because radio and TV station antennas are often located on the same towers or nearby. Stations that can’t move could be required to reduce power or shut down operation while tower crews work on the affected TV station antennas.

Congress approved legislation in March to help FM stations and to provide funding for reimbursements for radio stations and other entities affected by the repack. The FCC proposed regulations in August for how to award the reimbursements.

NPR said in comments filed Wednesday that an informal survey showed that at least three public radio stations will have to move their antennas to new towers, at least two others will have to relocate on the same towers, and at least a dozen public radio stations “must temporarily dismantle equipment or make other temporary or permanent equipment changes due to the TV repack.”

“These innocent bystander radio stations are caught in the repack shuffle,” said NPR. “Full reimbursement for all reasonable costs to minimize service disruption is particularly needed for local public radio stations, which have limited financial and operational resources to absorb the impact of the TV repack.”

The legislation, the Reimbursement Expansion Act, provides $1 billion in additional funding for repacking costs, mostly earmarked for full-power TV stations.

The legislation, which also provides reimbursement funding for low-power TV stations, earmarks up to $50 million for reimbursing FM stations and another $50 million to fund FCC efforts to educate consumers about the repack.

The FCC is supposed to set reimbursement rules for FM stations and low-power TV stations by March 23.

In a separate FCC filing, CPB, PBS and America’s Public Television Stations urged the commission to consult with stations on the agency’s educational efforts related to repacking.

“PTV encourages the Commission to work with stations, particularly public television stations, that have already completed channel changes and who are experienced in consumer education efforts,” the public broadcasting organizations said in their joint comments. “Public television stations are highly connected to their communities, relied upon for educational and informational assistance, and trusted by their communities.”

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