House Votes Unanimously to Pass RAY BAUM Act

WASHINGTON—The U.S. House of Representatives voted unanimously to pass the RAY BAUM’S Act Tuesday, March 6, with provisions addressing repack funding and reauthorizing the Federal Communications Commission.

Of particular interest to TV and radio broadcasters are provisions that make up for an anticipated shortfall in the $1.75 billion originally set aside to fund the relocation of repacked full-power and Class A television stations; address the repack expenses of low-power and translator TV stations affected by reshuffling channel assignments; and pay for the expenses radio stations caught up in the work to repack TV stations.

Passage of the legislation drew praise from around the broadcast industry. “NAB applauds today’s passage of RAY BAUM’S Act by the U.S. House of Representatives,” said NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith in a statement to the press. “Chairman [Greg] Walden [(R-Ore.)] and Ranking Member [Frank] Pallone [(D-N.J.)] deserve enormous credit for their leadership in crafting bipartisan, unanimous legislation that ensures local broadcasters are fairly reimbursed for expenses related to the spectrum ‘repack’.”

America’s Public Television Stations (APTS) welcomed passage, as well. “This additional funding —whose need was predicted by the broadcasting industry and by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden before the spectrum law was enacted in 2012—would ensure that our local public television stations have the resources they need to complete the repacking in a timely and efficient way, educate consumers about the transition and minimize disruption for their viewers,” said APTS President and CEO Patrick Butler in a press release.

In addition to repack funding and FCC reauthorization, the act approves the provisions of S.19, the MOBILE NOW Act, to advance 5G broadband development; corrects a spectrum auction deposit issue by allowing the FCC to deposit upfront payments from bidders directly with the U.S. Treasury; instructs the FCC to develop a national policy for unlicensed spectrum; and puts fraudulent phone calls to consumers in the crosshairs of the FCC and law enforcement.

The act awaits Senate approval. NAB’s Smith pledged to work in the Senate to “ensure this legislation’s passage into law along with full funding for the repack in the final omnibus spending bill.”

The act is named for Ray Baum, staff director of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, who died in February.

For more information on the repack, visit TV Technology's repack silo.   

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.