NAB Sues FCC Over Incentive Auction Rules

WASHINGTON—The broadcast lobby has asked a federal court to enjoin the Federal Communications Commission’s post-incentive auction TV station repacking methodology. The commission modified the data used for 2009 repack in a way that many say changes signal reach. The National Association of Broadcasters claims this change violates the Spectrum Act, which directs the FCC to preserve coverage as it was measured Feb. 22, 2012.

“Under this new methodology, many broadcast television licensees, including NAB’s members, will lose coverage area and population served during the auction’s repacking and reassignment process, or be forced to participate in the auction and relinquish broadcast spectrum rights,” the NAB said in a petition with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

The Spectrum Act directs the FCC to “make all reasonable efforts to preserve, as of Feb. 22, 2012, the coverage area and population served of each television licensee, as determined using the methodology described in OET-69,” which describes the calculations for evaluating coverage and interference among digital TV stations. The original was published Feb. 6, 2004 in anticipation of the analog-to-digital transition completed in June of 2009.

The commission released its first update of OET-69 in February, 2013, in a software format called “TVStudy,” which used different population data than what was in effect in February of 2012. Several updates have been released since TVStudy was introduced, but none have reverted to the older population data. In evaluating the software, the NAB estimated more than 1,900 of the 2,232 full-power and Class A TV stations would lose coverage.

The NAB said it sought relief from the court on the grounds that the spectrum auction Report & Order passed by the FCC in mid-May and published Aug. 15 in the Federal Register “violates the Spectrum Act; is arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion and adopted in violation of administrative law.

“Accordingly, NAB respectfully requests that this court hold unlawful, vacate, enjoin, and set aside the commission’s adoption of TVStudy in the Order and grant such additional relief as may be necessary and appropriate,” the NAB’s petition said.