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NAB analysis of FCC spectrum plans predicts dire consequences for many broadcasters

A new analysis from the National Association of Broadcasters of the possible impact of the FCC’s National Broadband Plan on local television stations paints a bleak picture of massive channel reassignments and a minimum of some 200 stations going dark.

The analysis, released July 25, finds that 40 percent of full-power TV stations could be required to vacate their channel assignments, and of those at least 210 being forced to go off-air permanently.

A total of 672 full-power TV stations would have to be removed from channels 31-51 to meet the FCC’s goal of reclaiming 120MHz of spectrum for television broadcasters. This number, some 40 percent of the nation’s 1735 full-power stations, compares to 174 stations that were cleared from channels 52-69 and forced onto a new channel.

"If the FCC's National Broadband Plan to recapture 20 more TV channels is implemented, service disruption, confusion and inconvenience for local television viewers will make the 2009 DTV transition seem like child's play," Gordon Smith, NAB president and CEO, is quoted as saying in a press release announcing the analysis.

According to Smith, it is impossible for the FCC to meet its spectrum reclamation goal without its spectrum clearing becoming a government mandate. The NAB favors a truly voluntary spectrum auction.
NAB's analysis of the FCC proposal to recapture 120MHz of TV spectrum reveals:

  • Top 10 TV markets would be dramatically affected by the FCC proposal, with 73 stations in the largest 10 markets going off the air.
  • More than half of all TV stations would likely need to disrupt service for millions of viewers for a few hours to a few weeks to accommodate spectrum repacking.
  • Service disruptions would occur at more than 800 TV stations in large markets, mid-sized markets and small markets. The negative impact would be spread among network-owned stations and affiliates; Spanish and other foreign-language stations; and independent, religious and public TV stations.
  • Americans living in cities along the Canadian border would bear extra burdens because of international treaty obligations designed to minimize interference between Canadian and U.S. cities. Under the FCC National Broadband Plan, all Detroit TV stations could go dark. Other border cities that could face severe disruptions and loss of service include Buffalo, Seattle, Syracuse, Cleveland, Spokane, Rochester and Watertown, NY, and Flint, MI.