Bill Aims to Stifle Involuntary TV Spectrum Reclamation

Last week Representative Rick Boucher from Virginia introduced a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives cosponsored by Representative Cliff Stearns from Florida that would prevent the FCC from reclaiming TV spectrum on involuntary basis.

The bill states:

"The Federal Communications Commission shall not reclaim frequencies of broadcast television licensees or any other licensees directly or indirectly on an involuntary basis for the purpose of section 309(j)(8)(F) of the Communications Act of 1934."

While the bill, H.R. 5947 does not specifically prohibit spectrum fees, the language "directly or indirectly" appears to prevent the FCC from using fees to "indirectly" force broadcasters to give up spectrum.

Dennis Wharton, NAB's executive vice president of communications, threw his support to the bill.

"NAB salutes Chairman Boucher and Ranking Member Stearns for their vision on an issue of vital importance to tens of millions of Americans who rely on local TV stations for high-quality entertainment, niche programming and lifeline emergency news and information," Wharton said. "As NAB has previously articulated, we have no quarrel with incentive auctions that are truly voluntary, and the Boucher/Stearns bill is a clear step in the right direction."

The bill does not address what will happen to broadcasters who are broadcasting on channels that would be taken away for wireless broadband use. As I've outlined before, broadcasters that have to change channels could incur significant costs, especially if they have to avoid interruption to service on their existing channel. Will those costs be reimbursed?

Doug Lung

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. As vice president of Broadcast Technology for NBCUniversal Local, H. Douglas Lung leads NBC and Telemundo-owned stations’ RF and transmission affairs, including microwave, radars, satellite uplinks, and FCC technical filings. Beginning his career in 1976 at KSCI in Los Angeles, Lung has nearly 50 years of experience in broadcast television engineering. Beginning in 1985, he led the engineering department for what was to become the Telemundo network and station group, assisting in the design, construction and installation of the company’s broadcast and cable facilities. Other projects include work on the launch of Hawaii’s first UHF TV station, the rollout and testing of the ATSC mobile-handheld standard, and software development related to the incentive auction TV spectrum repack.
A longtime columnist for TV Technology, Doug is also a regular contributor to IEEE Broadcast Technology. He is the recipient of the 2023 NAB Television Engineering Award. He also received a Tech Leadership Award from TV Tech publisher Future plc in 2021 and is a member of the IEEE Broadcast Technology Society and the Society of Broadcast Engineers.