WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) today introduced the bipartisan Viewer and Listener Protection Act of 2017, S. 1632. Sen. Moran was joined by U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) to introduce the legislation to establish a new Viewer and Listener Protection Fund within the United States Treasury (Treasury) to make certain broadcasters nationwide can stay on air.
In April as a result of their most recent spectrum incentive auction, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued public notice of proposed channel reassignments, commonly referred to as “repack,” for nearly 1,000 television stations and additional radio stations nationwide. The current Television Broadcaster Relocation Fund has an authorized $1.75 billion to assist stations with their relocation costs and make certain that channels nationwide can continue to broadcast. Earlier this month, the FCC estimated that approximate total cost for station relocation, based on the reports from reimbursement-eligible TV stations and multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs), would reach $2.1 billion, far exceeding the funds authorized.
"I remain very concerned that rural America will be disproportionately harmed if Congress does not take action to provide adequate resources and an appropriate timeline for the relocation of TV and radio stations,” said Sen. Moran. “The FCC’s broadcaster incentive auction brought in substantial revenue for taxpayers while empowering communications companies to enhance their networks and improve service. Now we must protect and preserve the rural communities served by broadcasters who provide vital services such as news, weather and traffic, as well as entertainment, to millions of Americans nationwide."
“As we move ahead with relocating broadcasters to new channels and expanding our wireless broadband network, we need to make sure TV and radio stations across the country have the resources to repack as easily as possible,” said Sen. Schatz. “Our bill would provide those resources and allow stations to successfully complete their relocation while providing uninterrupted service to viewers across the country.”
Sen. Moran’s legislation would establish a new Viewer and Listener Protection Fund within the Treasury to distribute additional funds to broadcast television and radio stations for costs incurred during the repack. This allocation will be used only if funds from the TV Broadcaster Relocation Fund are exhausted and the FCC appropriately certifies the need for the additional resources. In addition, this bill would direct the FCC to modify the transition period for a specific broadcast television station if necessary to ensure that no broadcast television station is forced to stop broadcasting for a significant period of time.
"The Kansas Association of Broadcasters, which represents television and radio broadcasters all over our state, applauds Senators Moran, Schatz and this bipartisan group of Senators for introducing ‘The Viewer and Listener Protection Act,’” said Kent Cornish, President of the Kansas Association of Broadcasters. “Sen. Moran has always recognized and appreciated the valuable and vital services local broadcasters provide to our communities. This legislation would ensure that our stations who are required to move to new channels as part of the recent spectrum incentive auction are fully reimbursed for their costs as agreed to by Congress. In addition, this mandates that stations are held harmless if something outside their control delays their move. Of equal importance, it also addresses the concerns of FM radio stations who are also adversely impacted by these moves. We thank Sen. Moran for his tireless work on this issue and look forward to working with him as this legislation moves forward."
In a recent Senate Commerce Committee hearing, FCC Chairman Ajit V. Pai stated, “I expect it would be necessary, if broadcasters are going to be harmless in this repack, that Congress would have to provide additional funding."
To view the Viewer and Listener Protection Act of 2017, click here.
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