Smith spells out four principles for any legislative, policy spectrum changes

The head of the National Association of Broadcasters last week laid out four principles that should govern any legislation or administrative policy aimed at recouping spectrum from over-the-air TV broadcasters for wireless broadband services.

In a letter dated July 19 from NAB CEO and President Gordon Smith to Lawrence Summers, director of the National Economic Council, the association chief wrote that the broadcast industry has “no quarrel with incentive auctions that are truly voluntary,” but expressed concern that the administration’s stated goal of recouping 120MHz of broadcast spectrum is “arbitrary.” (The concept of an incentive auction, as described by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, is to allow broadcasters to share in some of the proceeds from the auction of their spectrum.)

An analysis by the Omnibus Broadband Initiative suggesting that it may be possible to achieve the spectrum claw back is flawed, as was demonstrated during the FCC’s recent Broadcast Engineering Forum, Smith said in the letter. Smith expressed the hope that any legislative or policy changes to how spectrum is allocated for TV broadcast would recognize the importance of the medium to the public.

“We are hopeful that the administration will continue to recognize broadcasting’s undisputed strengths, and that any legislative or regulatory action altering the current spectrum framework will provide Americans with both the finest broadband and broadcast system in the world,” the letter said.

Changes to spectrum policy must adhere to four precepts, the letter said:

  • Americans maintain access to digital offerings currently provided by TV broadcasters. “Those stations choosing not to participate in a voluntary incentive auction should not be asked to deny their viewers the full fruits of broadcasting’s digital future,” the letter said.
  • Americans must not lose access to broadcast TV based on signal strength degradations or limitations.
  • Free TV viewers must continue to be beneficiaries of video innovation, whether on a 60in or 4in display. “Stations that choose not to participate in a voluntary incentive auction must not lose the ability to innovate using their full, current spectrum resource,” the letter said.
  • Americans must not lose quality local TV because of new spectrum taxes. “Stations that choose not to participate in a voluntary incentive auction must not be subjected to onerous new spectrum taxes that would make it increasingly difficult for stations to finance local programming, operations and newsgathering efforts,” it said.