Wheeler Urges Stations To Sell Spectrum

In his first policy address since becoming FCC chairman, Tom Wheeler says channel-sharing arrangements and must carry would let broadcasters cash in on the incentive auction and continue to stay in business.“That to me seems to be a pretty good deal,” he said Monday at Ohio State.
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Commercial and public broadcasters alike should consider cashing in their existing channels during the FCC’s upcoming incentive auction — then continuing operations through channel-sharing arrangements with other broadcasters, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler told an audience at Ohio State University Monday.

“That to me seems to be a pretty good deal,” said Wheeler during a question and answer session after delivering what he billed as the “first policy address” of his FCC chairmanship.

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Wheeler said the sharing deals are particularly sweet for broadcasters because FCC must-carry rules would ensure that the broadcasters’ TV transmissions continue reaching consumer homes through cable-system carriage in their markets.

Wheeler said the channel-sharing deals would give “forever cash-starved” public broadcasters a “pot full of cash” that they could use as an endowment to keep their noncommercial operations going while using spectrum more efficiently.

“It may be just a great godsend to the PBS business,” Wheeler said. He also said he believed that TV broadcasters “serve a very important public interest. It’s the place you go in a time of emergency.”

But the new chairman also said there has been a “skyrocketing” demand for spectrum, and that a lack of spectrum is constraining the nation’s economic growth.

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“So we have to ask ourselves the question: is there a more efficient use for the spectrum?”

Wheeler said the auction is a way to let the market figure out what the “highest and best” use for the spectrum is. “If past auctions are any measure, this is worth tens of billions of dollars,” he said.

Wheeler said the incentive auction has been his “No. 1 issue” since stepping in as the agency’s new chairman on Nov. 4. But he also said he didn’t want to be “rushed into” announcing a schedule for the auction.

“We want to make sure that the software that is going to run this incredibly complex auction ... is up to the task,” Wheeler said. “We will be able to announce a schedule in the not too distant future.”

At one point during his speech, some observers thought the chairman suggested that he supported the concept of limiting the ability of AT&T and Verizon to bid in the incentive auction in the interests of enhancing the ability of other companies to compete in the wireless business.

Limiting bidders could severely reduce auction revenues and broadcaster participation, according to the Expanding Opportunities for Broadcasters Coalition — a group representing stations interested in participating in the auctions.

“Whatever the perceived benefits of bidding restrictions, those benefits must be weighed against the very real danger of inadequate revenue to buy the spectrum necessary for a successful auction," said Preston Padden, the coalition’s executive director, in response.

Wheeler said that one of the reasons he decided to give his first policy address at OSU was that he’s an alum: “I’m a proud Buckeye.”

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Comments (11) -

Roger Thornhill Nickname posted over 3 years ago
After the Obamacare website fiasco I would be scared too and give the programmers plenty of time to make sure the software for the incentive auction works smoothly.
Wolfman Nickname posted over 3 years ago
Snake oil salesman!!
HopeUMakeit Nickname posted over 3 years ago
Spoken like a true cable company lobbyist. What has the market ever “figured out” that did not require getting “bailed out”. You know these comments are not being viewed on the original story source.
NJKawac14 Nickname posted over 3 years ago
We the taxpayers have given the spectrum to broadcasters to provide free OTA television (news, sports, entertainment, etc.) --not just as an emergency back-up for the cable providers. When the spectrum is repacked, what assurances do I have that the picture quality of the repacked stations will continue at the high level that it does today? After years of decline, the share of OTA viewers is finally growing. Wheeler needs to recognize this, and put his priorities not with CATV or wireless broadband providers, but with the American people who expect high quality free broadcast television.
Chuck Nickname posted over 3 years ago
When channels 52 to 69 were removed we lost some programming because stations on the same channel are too close together. If this goes through it will be even worse. Sharing channels is not a good idea. The local TBN station carries six programs and if you have ever watched you know how bad the picture can be. If stations now airing 1080i HD share a channel that will be lost along with the number of viewing options. This would be a big mistake.
DearMrFantasy Nickname posted over 3 years ago
So broadcasters are being encouraged to give up their over the air service and either share a few channels among themselves (bye-bye HD) or rely on subscription based services and the FCC's must carry requirements which were one vote away from being struck down when they were last challenged in the courts. Is that Tom Wheeler or Reed Hundt in a Tom Wheeler disguise?
SalesGrrl Nickname posted over 3 years ago
Clearly, this guy doesn't watch broadcast TV. What happens when one of the two or three towers that support a multitude of channels goes down? Or due to the fact all of the broadcast towers for your DMA are in one spot, a tornado wipes out all of them? Or even that because you are a certain distance from that transmitter, you can't even get that series of stations well, and no amount of tinfoil and feng shui can change that? Seriously? His answer is "share"? I know, how about everyone else shares what people aren't using? How about you make the phone companies shift to different spectrum? or just say "nope, no more!" and THEY can figure it out?
Chuck Nickname posted over 3 years ago
From our standpoint as over-the-air viewers this proposal by Chairman Tom Wheeler is quite disappointing. It is just another move to destroy the TV service we have now. Our local PBS station provides three program channels (18.1, 18.2 and 18.3) which we view regularly. Channel 18.1 is in beautiful HD better than the local cable provides. I fear what will happen if this station shares channel space with another station. Most likely we will lose some programming and probably PBS HD. Over the air TV is better than ever and more people are switching back to it. This would be a giant step backwards. It will be a disaster for antenna viewers, but good for the cable industry.
Roger Thornhill Nickname posted over 3 years ago
At the first LEARN workshop the concept of channel sharing was brought up. It immediately sank like a stone among the broadcasters present. Nobody in the industry wants to do it. Only the FCC and the wireless industry wingnuts have been cheerleading this as a viable solution. From re-defining LPTV, using proxy channels to establish interference standards for repacking and trying to set a date for the auction without the border agreements, the FCC has shown itself so desperate to get this auction and repack off the ground that they're willing to violate the law to bring it about. I expected more from Tom Wheeler but it's looking like the "same old, same old." To me, this seems the easiest and probably most likely solution: reclaim 48 (or maybe 60) MHz of contiguous UHF spectrum and get the rest from government agencies who, as independent studies are showing, are not using their spectrum efficiently and occupy too much of it. Continue to use guard bands and Ch. 37 for unlicensed use. After this, the government needs to stop poaching broadcast spectrum (such as trying to redefine it all as wireless spectrum) and require the wireless industry and government agencies to develop and use spectrum-efficient technologies.
dawg78 Nickname posted over 3 years ago
He has clearly been at the head of the Kool-Aid line and consumed more than his share...remember how you know when a politician is lying...when his lips move.
AlwaysEvolving Nickname posted over 3 years ago
Thomas Wheeler what just came out of your mouth about OTA auctioning and sharing, is UnAmerican.
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Ratings

Overnights, adults 18-49 for September 29, 2016
  • 1.
    1.6/6
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    1.2/4
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    1.2/4
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    0.9/3
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    0.6/2
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    0.3/1
Source: Nielsen

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