Bill Aims to Stifle Involuntary TV Spectrum Reclamation

H.R. 5947 appears to prevent fees to "indirectly" force broadcasters to give up spectrum.
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H.R. 5947 appears to prevent fees to "indirectly" force broadcasters to give up spectrum.

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?