Originally published: April 11, 2011
Last updated: April 11, 2011 - 4:15pm
The Federal Communications Commission's rejiggering of television station spectrum allocations as part of its broadband spectrum reclamation plan could adversely affect a third or more of all TV stations, according to the prepared congressional testimony of the broadcasting representative on the first of what will be several hearings on the issue.
Robert Good of WGAL-TV Lancaster (PA) -- who wears a lot of hats as assistant GM, director of operations and chief engineer for the station -- is representing broadcasters at the April 12 hearing on spectrum issues being held in the House Communications Subcommittee, which is headed by a former broadcaster, Rep Greg Walden (R-OR). Good plans to tell the legislators that they need to recognize that reallocation and repacking of spectrum would impose "significant financial costs" and result in "a material diminution of existing free, over-the-air television broadcast service." He says a second digital transition could create "unprecedented" viewer disruption, confusion and dissatisfaction." His message will be one of cooperation, however, with one big caveat. "Broadcasters do not oppose voluntary incentive auctions and the reallocation of broadcast spectrum, if, in fact, the auction and reallocation of broadcast spectrum is truly ‘voluntary,'" he says. But the big issue is whether repacking and "voluntary" are mutually exclusive. "For an auction process to be truly voluntary, it must be voluntary both for those stations that elect to participate in the auction and for those stations that elect to retain their licenses and continue delivering to their communities the full panoply of benefits of the digital transition," says Good. But if the repacking is required of any station that doesn't want it, and that repacking materially diminishes the service, that clearly fails the broadcasters' "voluntary" test. Good also paints a grim picture of potential loss from the combination of reducing broadcasters footprint now that the commission has allowed unlicensed devices to share the broadcast band.
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