FCC Divided on Spectrum Auction Order

While the “net neutrality” debate was at center stage during last week’s monthly FCC Open Meeting, another huge FCC effort took a step forward as well: the upcoming incentive auction of television broadcast spectrum.  The Commissioners were divided on the rulemaking, ultimately ending in a partisan 3-2 vote.  Notably, one key concern about the order for the Republican Commissioners was the risk to broadcasters who choose not to participate in the auction.  Commissioner Ajit Pai stated:

Broadcasters that do not participate in the incentive auction are not asking for special treatment.… [They] are simply asking to be held harmless rather than being made losers. This is a reasonable request, and we should have granted it. Indeed, I believe that this was Congress’s intent…. But if broadcasters that stay in business cannot recover their relocation costs, is the incentive auction truly voluntary?

Similarly, Commissioner Michael O’Rielly declared, “I expect a court may find difficulty in supporting the Commission here… Congress was abundantly clear that it wanted to hold harmless non-participating broadcasters in their ability to serve their over-the-air viewers. I am disappointed to see this directive not sufficiently honored.”

As the FCC works to advance this spectrum auction, 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: May 23, 2014