The FCC recently released
several items of
interest, including its
the public for preparing
for the hurricane
season. Number four
on the list included this
gem: “Broadcasters are
an important source of
news during emergencies.” The commission
also released a nearly 500-page document
detailing its rules on the upcoming
spectrum incentive auctions.
How are these two commission actions
related? Well, as we all know, the FCC is the
primary agency in charge of protecting
and managing RF spectrum and ensuring
its optimum usage serves the “public interest.”
The commission is under enormous
pressure to strike a balance between the
increasing need for spectrum for mobile
wireless services and the importance of a
free, robust broadcast service for the public.
Unfortunately the commission’s spectrum
auction rules clearly tip the balance
in favor of the wireless industry.
Should we be surprised? Of course not.
Broadcasters saw this coming, despite assurances
from the chairman that the commission
would comply with the congressional
mandate to develop rules that would
protect broadcasters’ coverage area. Unfortunately,
time and again, the FCC rejected
broadcasters’ input, an outcome that could
result in higher costs for our industry and
Take OET-69, for example. The FCC rejected
the NAB’s request to ditch the flawed
TVStudy methodology the commission proposes
to determine coverage in favor of
OET-69. NAB Spokesman Dennis Wharton
alluded to the commission’s “bizarre commitment”
to TVStudy. “The commission cannot
even get the results of its new software
to match those of the old software,” he said.
Another issue is the concept that broadcasters
who don’t participate in the auctions
be forced to cover the costs of relocation.
“In pitching the
auction, former Chairman [Julius] Genachowski
made plain to Congress that the voluntary
auction would not cost broadcasters who
didn’t participate a penny,” Wharton said.
“Congress then approved the auction and
even provided a fund to cover all costs. The
FCC should do everything in its power to
limit repacking to that fund, and if it exceeds
the fund, the new licensees should
be responsible for any excess costs as they
are in any other proceeding.”
While the rules don’t go far enough in
protecting broadcasters’ interests, there
are a few nuggets. The commission did take
steps to protect funding for public broadcasters
during repacking and opened the
door for some stations to experiment with
new transmission technologies.
In the end, though, it’s obvious that our
industry is on its own if it wants to protect
the future of free over-the-air broadcasting;
it certainly cannot look to this FCC anymore.
And neither can the public, who so
often turn to broadcasters first when a crisis