Sinclair Broadcast Group is urging the FCC to reimburse for transmitter headroom as broadcasters plan the channel repack process following the incentive auctions.
The repack review and approval process began July 12 and Sinclair is concerned there is significant disagreement regarding the reasonable reimbursement eligibility of transmitter headroom, and that not including it could expose many station groups to millions of dollars in financial risk.
In an FCC filing, Sinclair defined headroom as reserved excess transmission capacity that many broadcasters commonly build into their facility design, to ensure performance reliability and longevity and the ability to maximize in the future.
“This is a common practice, and broadcasters have been investing considerable amounts of money into transmitter headroom for decades,” the company wrote.
Sinclair said that the FCC’s indication that it would not approve all applications for reimbursement of headroom expenses could be an attempt to “artificially” reduce the cost of the repack and keep expenses at or below the $1.75 billion allocated by the FCC under Congressional mandate.
Many broadcasters and groups including the NAB have contended since the beginning of the repack planning process that not only would the 39-month window for the repack be too short, but that the $1.75 billion allocated would be insufficient.
Dennis Wharton, executive vice president of media relations for NAB, said the repack timeline and funding limitations are unfair to broadcasters.
“These are forced moves by the government and to think that just for the privilege of staying in the business of broadcasting, that we might have to pay out of pocket maybe hundreds of thousands of dollars on an individual station level, it seems a little unfair,” Wharton said.
But he said that the current Commission, under Chairman Ajit Pai, could be a little more sympathetic to NAB’s arguments.
The FCC could soon release official estimates for necessary repack funds. But TVNewsCheck, based on a recent review of 500 estimates submitted by broadcasters, predicted the total cost of the repack could reach $2.25 billion (when factoring in MVPD expenses).