New Bill Aims to Protect Broadcasters In Spectrum Auctions

Posted by at 12:49 pm on January 6, 2016

Frank Pallone

Frank Pallone

House Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) unveiled a draft bill today that would go a long way toward protecting broadcasters during the repacking of the TV band that will follow the FCC’s incentive auction this spring.

In the incentive auction, the FCC plans to buy the spectrum of several hundred TV stations and then turn around and sell it to wireless carriers. If the auction is successful, the FCC will require up to 1,200 of the remaining stations to move to new channels as if repacks the TV band to segregate broadcasting and wireless spectrum.

Congress has ordered that $1.75 billion of the auction proceeds be set aside to reimburse broadcasters for the cost of the channel moves. And the FCC has given broadcasters just 39 months to complete their moves. Pallone’s draft proposes allocating $90 million to educate the public on how the repacking may affect them and an extra $1 billion in case the $1.75 billion proves inadequate.

The draft authorizes the FCC’s Mass Media Bureau to grant stations extensions of the 39-month relocation deadline so that “no station is forced to stop broadcasting due to reasons outside the station’s control.”

Finally, the measure requires the FCC to develop a repacking plan that provides “wireless licensees with access to their licenses on a phased-in basis as separate regions of the country are reorganized for wireless use.”

The legislation covers the major concerns about the repacking raised by the NAB.

“Ranking Member Pallone is proposing a smart, consumer-friendly approach that addresses urgent ‘repacking’ issues that must be addressed to achieve a successful and truly voluntary incentive auction,” said NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton. “NAB looks forward to working in bipartisan fashion to protect broadcast viewers in communities across the country.”

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