NAB Requests Expedited Review of Spectrum Auction Lawsuit

WASHINGTON—The National Association of Broadcasters is asking an appeals court to expedite consideration of a lawsuit the association filed earlier this month against certain portions of the FCC’s plan to auction broadcast spectrum in 2015.

NAB’s lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia, claims that the FCC’s use of a new software program to determine broadcast coverage areas after spectrum auctions next year will negatively affect coverage for those stations not participating in the spectrum auctions. In its new filing, the association says that the court should sidestep the normal timeline for review and expedite the process, claiming that a decision made after the auctions commence could cause jeopardize the auctions success.

The FCC’s “National Broadband Plan” seeks to auction off portions of the TV broadcast spectrum to the wireless industry next year from participating stations. After the auction, those stations will have their channels “repacked” to improve efficient use of the spectrum. The NAB claims that the FCC’s use of its “TVStudy” software to determine post-auction coverage is flawed and will cause stations to lose viewers.

“This Court should expedite consideration of this petition to avoid irreparable harm to NAB’s members,” the NAB said. “The incentive auction is scheduled for mid-2015. If this petition follows the standard briefing and argument timeline, however, the auction will take place before the case can be decided.”

The association goes on to say that it is not aware of a case where a court has vacated the results of a commission’s auction after it occurred. “As a result,” the NAB said, “broadcasters assigned to new channels following the auction could be forced to accept reductions in their coverage area and population served, with no practical remedy.”

Those wireless companies that bid for the new spectrum could also be harmed by uncertainty created by a court delay, the NAB added. “Wireless providers and the public also have a significant interest in the prompt disposition of this petition,” the NAB said. “Denying expedition would place the entire broadcast industry at risk of committing to an expensive and legally flawed process that will be impossible to unwind fully, thus jeopardizing the success of the auction and threatening to disrupt broadcast television service for millions of viewers,”

NAB proposed that “oral argument be scheduled as soon as practicable upon completion of the briefing so that a decision may issue in advance of the mid-2015 auction.” NAB’s brief would be scheduled 30 days after entry of the Court’s order granting the association’s motion to expedite. The FCC would have 30 days to respond, after which the NAB would have 14 days to respond to the FCC’s response brief.

NAB added that it was not aware “of other likely challengers,” to its request to expedite, but that “if the Court does not order the above schedule, NAB respectively requests an accelerated schedule that the Court deems just and reasonable.”

NAB asked the court to respond by Sept. 5. 

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.