Padden Urges Reduced Coverage for Stations Sharing Licenses

WASHINGTON – Preston Padden is bringing his lobbying chops to bear for TV stations that may want to participate in the spectrum incentive auction. Now that his team has kyboshed population-based scoring on TV station licenses offered up in the incentive auctions, he’s trying to find out what criteria will be used to determine the value of a license. He’s also urging coverage-area modifications for stations that elect to share channels.

“The commission’s proposed requirement that stations electing to channel share must continue to place a city grade signal over their community of license is unnecessarily restricting the availability of sharing partners for some interested stations,” stated an ex parte filing describing meetings Padden had at the Federal Communications Commission.

Padden, a former network chief and Disney lobbyist, represents the Expanding Opportunities for Broadcasters Coalition. According to the filing, he and Wiley Rein’s Richard Bodorff met with Commissioners Robert McDowell—a short-timer who recently announced his impending departure—and Jessica Rosenworcel, as well as Gary Epstein of the FCC Incentive Auction Task Force and members of Commissioner Mignon Clyburn’s staff.

“The FCC should be encouraging stations to surrender their channels and channel share, not erecting barriers to this potentially attractive mechanism for participation,” the filing said.

It said Padden and Bodorff “commended” the commission for abandoning the “arbitrary and ill-advised” notion of population scoring. The idea was put forth in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking intended to shape the incentive auction, tentatively scheduled for June of 2014. Scoring on the basis of population would have affected which broadcasters could ultimately sell their 6 MHz licenses. Padden has argued that population data would inappropriately skew the value of a license.

“However, Mr. Padden observed that the FCC has offered no other objective basis to score TV stations willing to surrender their spectrum in the auction,” the filing said. “As a result, Mr. Padden advised the meeting participants, many broadcasters continue to perceive the specter of scoring based on some arbitrary factors as a real possibility, and this is driving stations away from the auction.”

Padden also put in a plug for not restricting auction participation by AT&T and Verizon on the basis of their market dominance. Doing so, he said, would “reduce total auction revenues.”