While the FCC’s decision to eliminate its sports blackout rules applying to pay-TV received much attention from the press, the upcoming spectrum auction was also a topic of major consideration during the FCC Open Meeting this week. In particular, the Commission approved, by a partisan 3-2 vote, a declaratory ruling related to its plans for “re-packing” television stations on the spectrum band after the auction, and it began proceedings related to post-auction “white space” and wireless microphone spectrum use.
The spectrum auction will again be on the FCC agenda at its next Open Meeting later this month. This time particular interest will be paid to low power television (LPTV), which has not been afforded the same rights as full power TV in the auction. The Commission intends to begin a proceeding moving LPTV toward full digital conversion and “mitigating the potential impact of the incentive auction and the repacking process.” Additionally, the agency will consider suspending deadlines for LPTV digital construction permits.
Also this week, Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), a former House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman, and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), the top Democrat on the Communications Subcommittee, formally requested a study from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) on the likely effects of the spectrum auction on LPTV stations and the communities they serve. In addition to projections, they are seeking recommendations for how the FCC and Congress can help LPTV and its viewers in the midst of the auction.
In light of a Congressional hearing on LPTV this summer, Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, President & CEO of NRB, said, “A number of LPTV stations that provide important religious and family programming free of charge to local communities may potentially be at risk in the upcoming spectrum auction. I urge Congress to ascertain what steps the FCC will be taking to keep low-power stations from simply being forced off the air.” NRB continues to urge a process that fairly honors the services and investments of Christian television broadcasters in their local communities.
By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations
Published: October 3, 2014