FCC Proposes Post-Auction Reimbursement Forms

WASHINGTON—The Federal Communications Commission has released a draft of its reimbursement form for TV stations to recoup some of their expense for relocating after the 2015 spectrum incentive auction. In the name of transparency, the commission said it’s seeking comments on the form.

“The draft released today is a representation of the data fields to be included in the electronic form and illustrates the information to be collected,” the FCC’s Media Bureau stated in a Public Notice released Friday.

Congress ordered $1.75 billion to be set aside from anticipated auction proceeds to reimburse broadcast TV stations that have to move to new channel assignments after the auction. The commission must make all reimbursements within three years of the close of the auction, tentatively scheduled to be held June of 2015.

Eligible entities include full-power and Class A TV licensees “that are involuntarily reassigned to new channels in the repacking process.” Host TV stations that move to another frequency in a channel-sharing arrangement are also eligible.

“Only ‘sharer’ television stations that participate as the host station in a channel-sharing arrangement are eligible for reimbursement, [and] only in the event that the shared facility receives a new channel assignment in the repacking process,” the PN said. “A ‘sharer’ is a station that does not relinquish its spectrum, but shares its frequency with one or more ‘sharee’—a station that relinquishes its frequency in order to move to the sharer’s frequency.”

Cable and satellite operators are eligible for reimbursement of costs incurred to continue carrying qualifying TV signals moved to new frequencies.

The form is designed to accommodate a four-part process beginning with an estimate of eligible costs; followed by documentation throughout construction as expenses are incurred; submission of the total expenses incurred; and the information necessary to establish an account with the Department of Treasury for payment.

Eligible entities will submit their cost estimates no later than three months after the commission releases its post-auction Channel Reassignment Public Notice, which will trigger the 39-month shot clock to clear reassigned spectrum. At this step, they will indicate whether they plan to either modify current equipment or purchase new gear. Initial funds will be disbursed based on these estimates to get the process underway.

Updated forms subsequently will be submitted to document spending as equipment and modification costs are incurred. All entities that receive preliminary funds will have to submit a final reimbursement form showing total expenditures, either by the end of construction or within the FCC’s three-year reimbursement period, by a deadline to be announced by the Media Bureau—whichever comes first. The Public Notice appears to leave room for exceptions, however:

“Some stations with longer construction periods and some MVPDs might still have outstanding expenses by that deadline; these entities must provide a final accounting of expenses on the reimbursement form upon completing the transition, even if this occurs after the end of the reimbursement period.”

The commission intends to make public the amounts of funds distributed to each broadcaster and MVPD, and is seeking comment on “whether any of the other data submitted on the reimbursement form should be considered confidential or not subject to public disclosure.”

Comments, to be submitted on the commission’s Incentive Auction docket, No. 12-268, are due Oct. 27.