FCC Requests Almost 5x Budget Increase for Media Bureau Contractual Services

This week the FCC released its Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Estimates Submitted to Congress. While documents like this can be bland and boring, by "following the money" we can get an idea of what the FCC might be planning for the next year.

Congress has yet to give the FCC authority to hold an incentive auction as part of the National Broadband Plan's goal of reallocating almost half the usable TV spectrum for wireless broadband. This spectrum allocation will involve "repacking" the TV stations that don't give up their spectrum. Based on efforts so far, it is likely at least some of the repacking studies will be outsourced. Looking at the proposed 2012 budget for the Media Bureau, the line item for "Other Contractual Services" increased from $134,187 enacted in the 2012 budget to $652,153 requested for 2013, an increase of over 380 percent! The actual amount spent in 2010 was even less than the approved 2012 amount – $108,276. The budget doesn't say what this extra money would be used for, but my guess is that at least some of it will be to analyze broadcast spectrum usage and allocations in preparation for the incentive auction of TV spectrum.

This amount isn't huge compared to other divisions; the Office of Engineering and Technology had a budget of $711,281 approved for 2012, but it drops to $195,527 in the 2013 request. One of the largest amounts, although the increase is not as great as the Media Bureau's request, is for Public Safety and Homeland security, $1,125,043, up from the $454,683 approved for 2012.

It will be interesting to see the changes Congress makes to the FCC's budget request. When looking at the budget, remember that the FCC funds itself through the regulatory fees broadcasters and other license holders pay either yearly or when licenses are applied for or renewed.

Doug Lung

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.