State associations ask senators to limit FCC incentive auction, channel repacking authority

Congress should place specific limitations on how the FCC conducts incentive auctions and repacks the TV spectrum, a group of independent state broadcast associations said June 29 in a letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

The letter asks Congress to limit the FCC to conducting a single incentive auction and “minimize the impact of repacking on the remaining television stations” so viewers “are not continually subjected to the confusion that results from stations shifting from one channel to another.”

Senate bill S.911 gives the agency authority to conduct incentive auctions and repack stations onto spectrum as part of an effort to free 10MHz of spectrum for a nationwide, interoperable broadband network for first responders, as well as clear spectrum to meet the goals of the FCC’s National Broadband Plan to support future wireless Internet broadband demand.

While praising the effort of Senators Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) to craft the legislation with “a solid framework for voluntary incentive auctions,” the associations sought specific limits on spectrum repacking. “The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) should be required to replicate each remaining station’s coverage area so that no viewers are disenfranchised,” it said.

Repacking stations to new channel assignments should not prevent broadcasters from reaching the audiences they do today. “They (broadcasters) should not be reassigned to channels that consumers have difficulty receiving,” the letter said.

The letter also asked the Senate leaders to limit the options of the FCC repacking effort by limiting the agency to employ existing interference rules. “A reduction in any of these protections will ultimately disenfranchise viewers,” the letter said.

Reminding the Senate leaders of the “considerable amount of confusion” TV viewers faced with the completion of the analog-to-digital transition two years ago, the letter said there needs to be stability for viewers going forward.

The state broadcast associations also reminded the senators that TV broadcasters spent more than $10 billion to comply with government mandates to convert to digital. “If the government is now going to rearrange the television broadcast bands again, it is essential this legislation address the economic impact of relocation,” the letter said.

Phil Kurz

Phil Kurz is a contributing editor to TV Tech. He has written about TV and video technology for more than 30 years and served as editor of three leading industry magazines. He earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.