Genachowski Urges Broadcaster Participation in Auctions
FCC chief said calls of interest were coming in
April 17, 2012
LAS VEGAS: Julius
Genachowski stood before a roomful of broadcasters Monday afternoon and urged
them to give up their spectrum.
“Don’t be afraid to be interested in
the incentive auctions,” the Federal Communications Commission Chairman said. “You’ll
be able to participate in an active marketplace providing a sizeable cash
infusion for returning some or all spectrum.”
Genachowski delivered his NAB Show remarks to around 450 people, many of them
broadcasters, who privately say they have no intention of doing so. However,
Genachowski said FCC phones had been ringing “with
broadcasters… expressing genuine interest in participating and asking thoughtful
Congress recently authorized
the FCC to hold an incentive auction in which broadcasters receive a share of
the proceeds for relinquishing spectrum for wireless broadband. The FCC since
formed a task force to implement what Genachowski described as a “robust public
process,” with webinars, workshops, public notices and proceedings. One of the
first among those is a channel-sharing order on the commission’s April 27
public meeting agenda. Channel sharing is one of three methods for participating
in the spectrum auction, along with moving from a UHF to a VHF assignment, or
turning over all 6 MHz comprising a TV channel. Genachowski said participation
could be opportunistic for broadcasters, particularly the 40 percent that don’t
receive retransmission fees from cable and satellite operators.
the case of a move to VHF, a broadcaster would stay on the air, retain
must-carry rights on cable and satellite, and generate cash from the move,” he
said. “As for channel sharing, it provides an opportunity to retain UHF
transmissions, but to trade in a portion of channel capacity in exchange for a
Genachowski said more information about participating would be made available
over the next few months. Currently, a channel-sharing workshop is on deck for
May, with an auction-design workshop in the months ahead and related Notices of
Proposed Rulemakings by fall.
“The core idea is this:
Don’t miss the boat on an opportunity you might regret passing up.”
Genachowski said the auction process would be “open, honest, inclusive,
fact-based and guided by economics and engineering.” He announced the
appointment of Gary Epstein, a Washington telecom attorney and former FCC
Common Carrier Bureau chief to the task force, which is headed by Ruth Milkman,
special counsel to the chairman.
fundamental purpose of incentive auctions is to bring market forces to bear on
spectrum,” Genachowski said.
The chairman also invoked market forces with regard to retransmission, though
he kept the reference brief. He reiterated that the FCC would prefer to stay
out of retransmission consent negotiations, but that “the calls for agency
intervention continue.” Genachowski said the commission is watching the
marketplace “carefully to determine whether further… action is warranted.”
The 2012 NAB Show marked the chairman’s third appearance at the convention. He
opened by trading friendly jabs with NAB president and CEO Gordon Smith, a
Brigham Young grad who joked that Genachowski was a “certified smart guy” who
attended the “BYU of the East, otherwise known as ‘Harvard.’”
Genachowski recalled how, at his first show appearance, Smith likened him to
“The Godfather” after he’d introduced the concept of incentive auctions. He
then congratulated Smith for
his five-year contract renewal, saying someone must have “made him an offer he couldn’t
The FCC chairman’s normal timeslot is 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, but Genachowski was
bumped this year by “a zen master of social media,” the actress Betty White,
who just started tweeting a week ago. White is being inducted into the NAB’s
Hall of Fame.
Genachowski wrapped his remarks by addressing an issue that’s drawn rigorous
broadcaster opposition—that of posting public inspection files online in a
Broadcasters who oppose the move have “elected to position themselves against
technology, against transparency and against journalism,” he said.
One point of contention is cost. Genachowski argued that posting files online
would save money once the transition was complete. Broadcasters—including the
NAB—have argued that requiring disclosure of broadcast political advertising
files is not the FCC’s purview.
“That argument is refuted by the plain language of the law,” he said. “The
FCC’s role here is clear, essential and very long-standing.”
Genachowski said some of the more “preposterous” arguments against uploading
disclosure files had come from “outside the NAB.”
He closed by saying broadcasters and the FCC had a “lot of work ahead.”
~ Deborah D. McAdams
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