Padden Heading Spectrum-Sellers Coalition
A group of anonymous TV station owners interested in selling spectrum through the FCC's planned incentive auction have formed a coalition to represent them in the FCC proceeding that is forging the rules for the auction.
“This coalition’s sole focus is to advocate for the success of the voluntary incentive auction of broadcast spectrum," said Preston Padden, the former Fox and Disney lobbyist who has been hired to head the Expanding Opportunities for Broadcasters Coalition.
"The FCC has only one shot to get it right. The coalition is dedicated to ensuring we have the rules and procedures in place to maximize the auction’s chance to succeed.”
Last February, President Obama signed a law empowering the FCC to buy spectrum from broadcasters that wish to give it up and then turn around and auction it to wireless broadband carriers.
The FCC is currently working on the implementing rules for the incentive auction — so-called because broadcasters have a cash incentive to give up their spectrum — with hopes of conducting it in 2014.
For the most part, full-service broadcasters with major network affiliations and newsrooms have said they have no interest in the incentive auction, preferring to hang on to all of their spectrum so they can offer new services.
But other broadcasters that are struggling see the incentive auction as a way to recoup some or all of their investments. Also, speculators have entered the market, buying up marginal stations with the intention of selling their spectrum at a profit in the FCC auction.
Those speculators include Michael Dell, founder of the online computer retailer of the same name, and NRJ TV, headed by Ted Bartley.
The coalition's goal of "a successful auction" could put it in conflict with the non-participating broadcasters whose chief concern is that the reorganization of the TV band that is incidental to the auction will disrupt and diminish their over-the-air service.
In an interview with TVNewsCheck, Padden said he intends to avoid such conflict. "Our advocacy will be complementary to, and not in any way in conflict with, the NAB," he said.
In response to the coaltion announcement, NAB spokeman Dennis Wharton said: "NAB will continue to engage our members, the FCC and others to develop an auction that allows volunteer broadcasters to be adequately compensated for leaving the business while holding harmless TV stations that remain on the air."
Citing the confidentiality language in the incentive auction law and rulemaking, Padden also said that keeping the coalition members anonymous is critical. “These are ongoing broadcast businesses with employees, advertisers and viewers. The need for confidentiality is obvious."
Padden did allow that the executive committee of the group does include broadcasters with whom he has worked in the past. The committee is still mulling decisions on staff, hiring of a law firm and funding, he said.
In the announcement, the coalition invited other like-minded broadcasters to join by contacting Padden at 202-649-0215 or firstname.lastname@example.org.