As part of its ongoing preparations for the broadcast incentive auction, the FCC issued a public notice last Friday setting forth the list of relocation and other expenses for which broadcast television licensees may receive reimbursement during the post-auction channel repacking process. At the same time, the FCC also published the reimbursement form that broadcasters must submit to receive compensation.
Pursuant to spectrum-related provisions of the 2012 Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act, which authorized the incentive auction, $1.7 5 billion has been allocated to the FCC to cover relocation expenses of broadcasters that opt to keep their spectrum and have their channels repacked. Cable operators and other multichannel video program distributors (MVPDs) may also be compensated for the cost of retuning their headends to carry relocated broadcast stations. Although the FCC had planned initially to disburse pay ments through the U.S. Treasury Department, the FCC’s Media Bureau announced that it will use an in-house disbursement process that it touted as more efficient and that will also “provide the Commission with more oversight over the establishment of accounts, further enhancing our ability to prevent waste, fraud and abuse.” Broadcasters and MVPDs will be able to draw on the reimbursement fund as expenses are incurred, and forms must be submitted every time compensation is requested, along with receipts and other paperwork to document each expense. While the FCC will publicly disclose the amount requested by and paid to each broadcaster, the agency said it would maintain the confidentiality of invoices and other cost documentation as well as the identity of vendors providing equipment or service to a specific broadcaster or MVPD.
Parties seeking reimbursement will be required to file their expenses and documentation electronically on FCC Form 2100, Schedule 399. The catalog of approved expenses has been incorporated into the form and covers, among other things, the cost of relocating towers and transmitters, antenna changes, electrical modifications, and engineering. Emphasizing that the catalog “is not intended to be a definitive list of all reimbursable expenses,” the FCC noted that the form will also include a “catch-all” entry within each cost category that will allow applicants to submit other expenses not specifically listed in the catalog. Confirming that Form 2100, Schedule 399 remains subject to approval by the Office of Management and Budget, the FCC said that, as it finalizes the online version of the form, “we will take into consideration the practical suggestions offered by commenters to enhance the functionality of the form.”