Sinclair Calls for Spectrum Inventory
November 1, 2011
BALTIMORE: Sinclair Broadcasting is intensifying its opposition to proposed
incentive auctions of broadcast TV spectrum. The company today called on
lawmakers to conduct a full spectrum inventory before authorizing the Federal
Communications Commission to hold incentive auctions. The commission’s National
Broadband Plan intends to reclaim 120 MHz of TV spectrum through voluntary
auctions, to be used for wireless broadband.
“The proposal in Congress to auction a 120 MHz portion of the broadcast
television spectrum would disenfranchise millions of Americans, seriously
damage local TV and raise meager revenues for the U.S. budget deficit,” the
Sinclair folks said.
Mark Aitken, vice president of Advanced Technology for Sinclair said 46 million
Americans rely exclusively on over-the-air TV.
“It is the only reliable medium everyone uses during catastrophes when the
cable goes out and the satellite dishes have blown off roofs,” he said. “America
cannot get this back after it is sold. Congress should postpone any
auction considerations until after a thorough spectrum audit is completed.”
Sinclair is espousing an alternative to the incentive auction scheme. The
company is proposing that broadcasters provide an overlay service for carrying
excess video traffic when wireless networks are overloaded. This would provide
an ongoing source of revenue for the government versus a one-time haul from the
auctions, because of a 5 percent levy on any revenue-generating service a
broadcaster provides that’s not related to delivering TV programming.
Should 120 MHz--40 percent of the spectrum dedicated to TV channels--be
reclaimed, Sinclair said all nine of Detroit’s local TV stations would go off
the air because of a treaty agreement with Canada. At least half of the TV
stations in 22 markets would be bumped off in the resulting repacking. An
estimated 131 TV stations would be forced off the air, Sinclair says.
The company says that rather than the “looming spectrum crisis,” often cited by
auction proponents, there is instead “spectrum management failure.” It says
that the 108 MHz of spectrum returned by TV stations after the 2009 DTV
transition remains unused. The government itself controls the biggest chunk of
the most-desired spectrum.
“Congress should pass legislation mandating a thorough spectrum audit and
formulate a national spectrum policy before it proceeds with any auction
considerations,” the company said.
Sinclair owns and/or operates 65 TV stations in 39 markets.