House authorizes more money for FCC spectrum auction repack

Congress initially allocated $1.75 billion to help cover the cost for broadcasters moving to new channels after agreeing to allow the FCC to sell their spectrum. (Pixabay)

The House has voted to reauthorize the FCC, an action that includes allocating more funds for TV broadcasters moving to new channels following the 600 MHz spectrum auctions.

Congress initially allocated $1.75 billion to help cover the cost for broadcasters moving to new channels after agreeing to allow the FCC to sell their spectrum so it can be used by U.S. mobile operators.

The new bill offers additional funds for full-power TV stations, translators and low-power stations that are relocating—for co-located radio stations—and a consumer education fund for building awareness of the subsequent channel changes.

Those funds will not kick in unless the original $1.75 billion is exceeded. Last year, the FCC’s Incentive Auction Task Force released numbers for TV stations and multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) eligible for reimbursement, and the figures were nearly $365 million higher than the allocation.

RELATED: FCC's channel repack estimate eclipses available funds by $365M

In comments made on the House Floor Tuesday, Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr., D-N.J., cheered the advancement of the bill.

“Not only does this bill help ensure consumer’s broadcast stations don’t go dark, as part of this bipartisan, bicameral deal, we have agreed to provide $50 million in funding to help educate consumers about the transition. This funding is critical to ensure that people have access to information about how to get their televisions to work,” said Pallone.

Several industry groups also voiced support for the bill, which was named in honor of Ray Baum, an Oregon legislator who died in February.

“NAB applauds today’s passage of RAY BAUM’S Act by the U.S. House of Representatives. Chairman Walden and Ranking Member Pallone 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.' NAB will continue to work with them, along with their colleagues in the Senate, to ensure this legislation’s passage into law along with full funding for the repack in the final omnibus spending bill,” said NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith in a statement.

“I applaud the House for its overwhelming bipartisan support of RAY BAUM’S Act. There is a lot to like in this bill, including removing a barrier to holding spectrum auctions, ensuring a timely repacking process so that incentive auction spectrum can be put to use by winning bidders, and updating mobile coverage data—while also reauthorizing the FCC and containing key provisions from the MOBILE NOW Act. I thank the House for passing the bipartisan RAY BAUM’S Act and urge swift passage by the Senate,” said CCA President and CEO Steven Berry in a statement.