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NAB chief urges FCC to make incentive auction process transparent

As the Federal Communications Commission moves forward with its broadcast incentive auction to clear spectrum for the wireless industry, the agency should ensure the process is fully transparent, Gordon Smith, president and CEO of NAB said in a letter dated June 26 to FCC chairman Julius Genachowski and his fellow commissioners.

"Many broadcasters are apprehensive about the incentive auction and repacking process," the letter said.

The commission should "strive for total transparency of process" as it considers critical issues related to the auction, the letter said.

The letter also offered several other suggestions to help guide the commission in the process, including working to allow broadcasters to retain their service areas in order to continue serving their viewers and local communities.

"Congress has made it clear that viewers who rely on local broadcasters should be protected, and instructed the FCC to make every effort to replicate the existing service areas of stations that continue to stay on the air," Smith said in the letter. Repacking TV spectrum has the potential to disrupt viewers who could lose service temporarily or permanently. "Transparency will be paramount in protecting the interests of viewers during this process," Smith said.

Smith also asked the FCC to consider the impact of its spectrum repacking plan on "the thousands of TV translators and low-power TV (LPTV) stations that serve rural and underserved communities across the country."

Limiting the number of stations affected by a repacking of the spectrum is also important, the letter said. The letter warned the commission that, unlike the DTV transition, implementing a repack will require broadcasters to shut down for some time while they make necessary modifications to their RF infrastructure, leaving viewers unserved. Limiting the number of stations that must go through this process will mitigate the impact on viewers.

In the letter, Smith urged the commission to maintain a "dedicated and stable broadcast band" so that the industry can continue to grow and innovate. Dedicating spectrum to broadcasting is "essential" to development of technologies like multicasting, Mobile DTV, ultra-high definition TV and other services.

Smith also asked the commission to build in ample time for the various industries that will be affected by the repacking to evaluate auction rules.