FCC Moves to Expand Channel Sharing Options

The FCC voted Thursday to build on its past allowances for channel sharing among TV broadcasters by creating new options for sharing outside the framework of the soon-concluding spectrum auction. Not only does the agency’s new order enable those stations that negotiated channel sharing agreements for the auction to continue taking advantage of such arrangements, but it also opens new opportunities for Class A, LPTV, and TV translator stations. Notably, Chairman Ajit Pai observed, “Increased channel options could potentially reduce construction and operating costs for resource-constrained secondary stations, including small, minority-owned, and niche stations.”

While the order was unanimously approved, one area of contention was that status of “must carry” rights on pay-TV for channel-sharing TV stations. Commissioner Mignon Clyburn was disappointed that new allowances were not included in the final order for LPTV stations that might come to an agreement with a full power station. However, Commissioner Michael O'Rielly favored the order retaining the status quo – neither pulling back existing rights nor creating new ones for licensees. "We are deciding not to reopen that can of worms here,” he said.

Regarding the order’s primary work to expand channel sharing, Chairman Pai said, “It will help to facilitate the continued availability of TV stations following the FCC’s incentive auction, thus ensuring that the public will continue to benefit from free, over-the-air broadcast programming.”

  • More details about this order are available from the FCC here.

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

Published: March 24, 2017

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