Why the LPTV/Translator/FM Post-Auction Reimbursement Process is Different
With the FCC’s announcement that FCC Form 2100, Schedule 399 (better known as Form 399) is now available for LPTV, TV Translator, and FM Stations seeking reimbursement for expenses incurred in relation to the broadcast television repack, the reimbursement process for these stations is now underway. For many licensees that also own full power and Class A television stations, the process will have a familiar look. However, broadcasters should not be complacent with what they know, as there are several important differences between the processes for full power and Class A stations and that for LPTV/translator/FM stations. While this is not meant to be an exhaustive discussion of the requirements for reimbursement, we highlight a number of those differences below:
- Eligibility Requirements: To be eligible for reimbursement, LPTV/translator stations must (a) have been licensed or had an application for license pending on April 13, 2017; and (b) been licensed and transmitting for not less than 2 hours in each day of the week, and not less than a total of 28 hours per calendar week, for 9 of the 12 months prior to April 13, 2017. FM stations, meanwhile, must: (a) have been licensed or had an application for license pending and were transmitting on April 13, 2017; and (b) must have experienced a disruption of service caused by a repacked full power or Class A television station.
- Pre-Qualification Requirement: Unlike full power and Class A stations, for which the Commission determined eligibility for reimbursement, LPTV/translator and FM Stations will need to file an Eligibility Statement with their initial Reimbursement Form by October 15, 2019. Licensees should prepare in advance to provide the necessary documentation to establish their eligibility.
- Costs Reimbursed: Although the FCC will once again only reimburse licensees for costs “reasonably incurred,” due to the nature of LPTV/translator displacement, the Commission will not apply a “comparable” facilities standard. FM stations will be eligible for costs reasonably incurred “to reasonably minimize disruption of service as a result of the reorganization of broadcast television spectrum.”
- Available Funds: Perhaps most importantly, the pool of funds available for LPTV/translator and FM reimbursements will be far more limited than for full power and Class A television stations. Under the Reimbursement Expansion Act, Congress allocated up to $600 million combined between LPTV/translator and FM stations. Given the limited amount of available funds, licensees should be diligent about submitting their expenses in a timely manner.
While these differences between the various reimbursement processes may seem subtle, they are important, and LPTV/translator/FM licensees will have only a short time to submit the required information. Accordingly, eligible broadcasters should immediately begin working with their engineers and counsel to ensure that they receive the full reimbursement to which they are entitled.