NAB Calls FCC’s Auction Rules a 'Significant Setback’ for Broadcasters

WASHINGTON—After studying the FCC’s release this week of its almost 500-page document detailing its plans to auction broadcast spectrum off to wireless companies, the NAB weighed in with its opinion. In short, it finds the rules to be unbalanced in favor of the wireless industry.

NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith

"NAB has deep reservations about the FCC’s incentive auction framework order released this week,” said NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith in a statement. “Broadcasters supported the bipartisan Spectrum Act precisely because Congress captured the proper balance between repurposing spectrum for mobile broadband while holding local TV stations harmless in the process. As the two dissenting FCC Commissioners noted, however, the incentive auction order turns this carefully crafted balance on its head, transforming Congress’s desired win-win-win into a significant setback for local broadcasters and our tens of millions of viewers.”

Smith added that the rules as currently written tip the balance in favor of the wireless industry and warns of consequences if viewers can’t receive their local broadcast signal.

"The order's fundamental flaw is that it ignores Congress's clear direction to do no harm to broadcasters who choose not to participate in the voluntary auction,” Smith continued. “Instead, the majority goes so far as to suggest that the goal of repurposing broadcast spectrum for mobile broadband is superior, rather than equal to, that of maintaining a healthy and robust broadcast industry. Let's be clear: not a single American will know or understand if their wireless carrier adds 10 or 20 new megahertz to its 150-plus megahertz stockpile. They will, however, be quite angry if they are suddenly deprived of access to local broadcasters' news, entertainment and public safety information as a result of an auction gone awry.”

Smith said that NAB is willing to work within the auction framework, but only if the commission implements policies “that truly hold non-participants harmless.”

He added that “if broadcasters are coerced through unrelated regulatory actions that damage the economics of our businesses -- or if auction rules undermine the many public services we deliver today – then the auction ceases to be voluntary, and the balance Congress painstakingly achieved evaporates. Now is the time for the FCC to make good on its repeated promises not to damage a vibrant television business, and for Congress to exercise the proper oversight needed to preserve a free, local and lifeline programming source that is the envy of the world."

Tom Butts

Tom has covered the broadcast technology market for the past 25 years, including three years handling member communications for the National Association of Broadcasters followed by a year as editor of Video Technology News and DTV Business executive newsletters for Phillips Publishing. In 1999 he launched for internet B2B portal Verticalnet. He is also a charter member of the CTA's Academy of Digital TV Pioneers. Since 2001, he has been editor-in-chief of TV Tech (, the leading source of news and information on broadcast and related media technology and is a frequent contributor and moderator to the brand’s Tech Leadership events.