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Media Bureau chief lays out plans for retrans notice, TV spectrum overhaul

William Lake, chief of the FCC Media Bureau, told a communications policy group Dec. 8 that the commission is preparing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to explore what it might do to promote the objective of letting market forces set retransmission fees while at the same time protecting the interests of viewers.

Speaking at The Media Institute’s Communications Forum luncheon, Lake said there appears to be uncertainty among the parties to retransmission negotiations about the meaning of “good faith.” While commission rules provide some guidance on the issue, greater certainty could help reduce how many retransmission negotiations end in failure.

“We may try to identify additional practices that will be treated as per se violations of the duty to bargain in good faith,” he said. Additional steps to bolster the requirement to notify the public when talks break down and to extend the requirement to non-cable distributors and broadcasters may also be proposed, he said.

The chief of the Media Bureau also asked those attending the luncheon for input on the ideas put forth by the commission in its recent Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding repurposing TV broadcast spectrum.

Citing “the stratospheric growth of wireless broadband use” and the lack of use of the spectrum dividend reaped by the DTV transmission on the part of some broadcasters, Lake said it was inevitable that the commission look at inefficiently used broadcast spectrum to meet emerging services.

Beyond the initial NPRM to repurpose spectrum, incentive auctions will need to be structured if Congress gives the agency the authority to hold them, he added. “As we do, it is important to give us your thoughts on what we are proposing, and not to perpetuate any misunderstandings about things we’re not,” he said.

According to Lake, the commission will need the help in structuring the incentive auction option “to make it achieve its purposes for wireless consumers, for broadcasters, for the Treasury, and for job creation.”

The Media Institute is based in Arlington, VA, and was founded in 1979. It exists to advance free speech, a competitive media and communications industry and excellence in journalism.

Phil Kurz is a contributing editor to TV Tech. He has written about TV and video technology for more than 30 years and served as editor of three leading industry magazines. He earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.