NAB Chief Calls for Auction Transparency and Minimized Service Disruption
June 26, 2012
WASHINGTON: The chief of
the National Association of Broadcasters asked regulators today to keep the TV
spectrum incentive auction process as open and orderly as possible in light of
the growing reliance on over-the-air TV.
“The success of incentive auctions will be measured by the clarity of the
process and the net result for TV viewers and wireless consumers alike,” Gordon Smith
said in a letter
to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski and the four
sitting commissioners. “By actively engaging TV broadcasters as partners in
this process, the FCC can achieve its goals of acquiring more spectrum for
wireless broadband while preserving spectrum dedicated to free broadcast
He noted recent figures indicating over-the-air reliance had grown to nearly 18
percent of U.S. TV households, and outlined a five-point plan for the process. First,
he said, the auction procedures must be “fully transparent.”
“Many broadcasters are apprehensive about the incentive auction and repacking
process. There are many unanswered questions,” he said. Among them are issues
regarding retention of service areas, distribution of the $1.75 billion
relocation fund and minimizing loss of service when stations have to change
Second, he said, stations should be able to retain their current coverage
areas. The bill authorizing the incentive auctions instructs the FCC only to “make
all reasonable efforts to preserve... the coverage area and population served
of each broadcast television licensee.”
“Local broadcast service should be ubiquitous after the incentive auction
just as it is today,” Smith said. “Channel reassignments and repacking must be
handled with extreme caution and full transparency. It’s clear that repacking
has the potential to be disruptive to viewers—whether as a temporary or
permanent loss of service.”
Smith said transparency was critical to both viewers and auction participants.
The impact on low-power TV and translators should be considered as well, he
“NAB urges the commission to release for comment the repacking and channel
reassignment proposals, including those that have been successfully coordinated
with Canada and Mexico, before the forward auction is completed,” he said.
Smith’s third point is to limit the number of stations affected by the
“During the DTV transition,
stations migrated to already operating signals, allowing viewers a seamless
transition,” he said. “By contrast, repacking the broadcast band for an
incentive auction will likely require stations to shut down for some period,
resulting in a loss of service to viewers.
“Limiting the number of relocated stations will minimize viewer disruption. It
will also ease in the administration of the $1.75 billion relocation fund;
ensuring remaining stations are reimbursed within the three-year window. For
this reason, NAB urges the commission to limit the number of stations that are
required to move during a band repacking.”
Point No. 4 is to leave the broadcast band alone after this second reassignment
round. The commission reassigned 108 MHz of TV spectrum for wireless use in the
2009 digital transition.
“Innovation… will include
multicasting, mobile DTV, ultra-high definition TV and services not yet imagined,”
Smith said. “Having spectrum dedicated exclusively to broadcasting is essential
to fostering these technological developments and ensuring the public continues
to receive the best and most advanced television services in the world.”
Finally, Smith said all affected industries needed adequate time to evaluate
how the auction and repacking could affect their businesses.
“NAB is eager to work closely and cooperatively with you and your staff,” he
concluded. “I am confident in the commission’s ability to complete this
proceeding in a way that ensures the continued expansion of wireless broadband
while sustaining future growth opportunities for a vibrant and vital local
broadcast service for all Americans.
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