Spectrum Sellers Oppose Ratings Bias
Broadcasters that are considering cashing in their TV channels in an FCC auction to repurpose spectrum for wireless broadband are sounding an alarm because some agency officials are said to be promoting auction regulations that would discriminate against stations with lower ratings and power.
“We’ve got some people at the FCC who are saying arbitrarily that all Class A’s (lower-powered full-service stations) should get a small percent of what a full-power station gets, and that is crazy,” said Preston Padden, executive director of the Expanding Opportunities for Broadcasters Coalition, in an interview with TVNewsCheck last night. “The metric should be the contribution to clearing the spectrum that the FCC wants to auction, not station ratings, nothing else.”
Under the FCC’s so-incentive auction — which the agency has proposed to conduct next year — the agency is hoping to pay broadcasters to give up enough TV channels in the nation’s largest markets so the FCC can auction a cleared nationwide band of TV spectrum to meet the burgeoning consumer demand for smartphone and other wireless communications devices.
But Padden said that some agency representatives — whom he declined to identify — want to give bigger TV stations in a market a larger slice of the auction pie than smaller stations in the same market.
“It does not matter to a wireless carrier whether the spectrum it receives was previously occupied by a full-power or a Class A station or a station with high or low ratings,” said the coalition, a group of broadcasters that are interested in participating in the auctions, in official reply comments slated to be filed at the FCC today.
In the interview, Padden, a former Walt Disney lobbyist, also said the coalition in its reply comments is urging the FCC to ax an agency proposal that would limit eligibility to participate in the auctions to stations that had their operations licensed as of Feb. 22, 2012 — the day the auction legislation was enacted.
The coalition is asking the FCC to include as eligible anyone who applied for a construction permit before Feb. 22 last year and then has their license granted and their facility built out before the incentive auction is actually held.
“The other thing is that they [the FCC commissioners] have got to make it clear that broadcasters who give up their spectrum are going to get paid right away, no matter what else happens,” Padden said.
“If there are lawsuits, if some of the wireless carriers are slow in paying, that shouldn’t affect these stations, because once they commit to sell their spectrum, their business is over, and they have got to get paid right away,” Padden said.
In its reply comments at the FCC, the coalition identifies its members as “broadcasters who are the licensees or hold rights to acquire more than 40 stations in the nation’s largest, most spectrum-constrained markets.”