House to Vote On Repack Shortfall Funding Bill This Week

WASHINGTON—Leaders from the House of Representatives and Senate Friday, March 2, jointly announced a bipartisan agreement in both chambers that addresses the shortfall in funding to reimburse full-power and Class A stations for their repack expenses, establishes funds to pay for the authorized relocation expenses of translators, low-power TV and radio stations impacted by the repack and a fund to educate consumers regarding the repack.

The legislation, called the RAY BAUM’S Act (H.R. 4986), addresses several other issues, including the reauthorization of the Federal Communications Commission; a boost to 5G wireless broadband development via inclusion of provisions of the Senate-approved MOBILE NOW Act (S.19); a spectrum auction fix authorizing the FCC to deposit upfront payments from bidders directly into the U.S. Treasury; FCC creation of a national policy for unlicensed spectrum; and consumer protection from fraudulent calls.

“This legislation, combining provisions that have previously passed both the House and Senate, does what no legislation has done in 28 years—it reauthorizes the FCC and includes provisions that help make sure that the Commission is transparent, efficient and ready for the 21st century communications landscape,” according to a joint statement released by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.), Ranking Member Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) and Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D-Fla.).

[Bill to Address Repack Shortcomings Advances]

“Importantly, it includes spectrum legislation that passed the Senate unanimously last year and authorizes reimbursement for broadcasters who were displaced in the successful incentive auctions,” the statement said.

A vote in the House is scheduled for March 6. The RAY BAUM’S Act is named for Ray Baum, a telecommunications policy staffer and friend of Walden, who died in February.

NAB welcomed word of the agreement. Gordon Smith, president and CEO of NAB, called Friday's agreement a "significant step toward fully reimbursing broadcaster repack relocation expenses."

"A truly voluntary incentive auction means tens of millions of Americans who rely on local TV and radio sations—as well as low-power TV stations and translators—are not unfairly burdened by the repack," he said in a statement released to the press. "America's hometown broadcasters fully support swift passage of RAY BAUM's Act and remain optimistic that appropriations will include full repack relocation funding in the final omnibus spending bill."

Phil Kurz is a contributing editor to TV Tech. He has written about TV and video technology for more than 30 years and served as editor of three leading industry magazines. He earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.