President's budget to propose analog spectrum fee

In yet another move by the U.S. government to get commercial broadcasters off the analog spectrum as soon after the 2006 deadline as possible, the White House says it will propose legislation authorizing the FCC to establish an annual $500 million lease fee on the use of analog spectrum by commercial broadcasters as of 2007. The FCC will be asked to propose a rulemaking to figure out how to divide the aggregate fee amount that each station would have to pay.

Upon return of its analog spectrum license to the FCC, an individual broadcaster will be exempt from the fee, said a section in the proposed budget.

NAB President Eddie Fritz quickly attacked the President's proposal. "Congress has wisely rejected spectrum taxes on broadcasters for the past several years, because lawmakers recognize that the timetable for the transition to digital television will be determined by consumer acceptance and not by arbitrary government dictates," he said.

"Free, over-the-air broadcasters are doing everything possible to complete the transition to digital, as evidenced by the 747 local stations that have made the switch to DTV," Fritz continued. "Broadcasters should not be saddled with an unfair spectrum tax, which would ultimately slow the transition to digital and harm consumers who rely on local stations for high quality news, information and entertainment programming."

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