NTA Proposes ‘Fast Track’ Approach To Translator Repack Reimbursement

WASHINGTON—The National Translator Association today filed comments with the FCC asking the agency to adopt a “Fast Track” approach and streamlined application process for repack expenses and limit reimbursement to no more than $31,000 per station.

Placing the dollar limit on stations qualifying for the proposed expedited process will allow “many administrative practices” currently in use to be simplified, NTA said. Simplification can be achieved because “market prices for re-fitting are competitive.”

NTA suggested the Fast Track process as a way to preserve TV translator delivery of OTA television, especially for viewers in areas with no alternative who, the filing said, “stand to lose all television service if TV translator service is impaired or terminated.”

The process would also protect low-power television stations that frequently serve urban niches and isolated rural areas, it said.

The filing offered a summary of the Fast Track proposal. Highlights include: stations opting to use the fast-track agree to limiting expense reimbursement to no more than $31,000 per station; collection of 100 percent of reimbursable costs once they are documented with paid invoices; no submission of preliminary proposals or cost estimates from stations; and applicability to stations that already are displaced, have bought equipment and continue to serve the public on new channels.

When construction is completed, participating stations would then submit a one-page form along with paid receipts not totaling more than $31,000, the filing said.

NTA chose the dollar limit because it will cover the relocation expenses of most translator stations required to change channels, it said. The filing indicates that the Fast Track approach will cost the government far less than what has been estimated for relocation in FY 2018.

Specifically, based on the commission’s own numbers, 2,159 applications were made to change channels during the window, and 340 more were filed prior to the window that are considered to be eligible. “At $31,000 apiece, this would total $77,469,000 or a little over half of the $150 million set aside,” the filing said.

The Fast Track program will meet the needs of small translators strapped for personnel and resources, said John Terrill, NTA president.

“Salt Lake City stations are repacked now, rebroadcast by almost 800 stations in five states,” he said. “These typical small stations do not have large budgets, not many options and a small staff to plan, build and request reimbursement, so this is tailored to small station needs.”

Phil Kurz

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.