Auctioning the Airwaves: An Update on Spectrum Issues
The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) upcoming spectrum auctions remain one of the top issues facing local television stations and their viewers.
What does this mean, and how could it impact your access to your free, local broadcast TV?
The government is encouraging TV stations in certain places to put their airwaves up for bid and, in return, share in the expected profit with the government. The bidders will be wireless companies eager for more spectrum. Congress intended this to be a voluntary process, and your local TV stations are under no obligation to participate, but serious questions and concerns remain. Even if stations choose not to participate, they could go off the air for some viewers after the auction.
The major challenge is that following the auction, the FCC may involuntarily move stations to create a larger swath of spectrum for wireless companies. Broadcasters want to be sure that as stations are moved (or “repacked”) viewers continue to have the same access to the local stations that they depend on for emergency information, news and entertainment each day.
Recently, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) – the association in Washington, D.C. representing local TV stations and networks – filed comments with the FCC regarding the upcoming spectrum incentive auction.
Broadcasters emphasized that ensuring viewers have the same access to free over-the-air TV should be of paramount importance during the spectrum auction process. This was important to highlight, because the FCC did not list protecting TV viewers as one of its initial goals for the auction. Broadcasters made clear that the FCC should follow the intent of Congress and those stations that choose not to participate should not be harmed in any way. Additionally, broadcasters want to ensure that their ability to innovate and expand services such as ultra-high definition television and mobile TV that benefit consumers are not jeopardized.
The FCC is currently reviewing all the comments it received on the auction process, and we are hopefully that commissioners will make protecting local TV viewers a priority as it moves forward with the auction process. We’ll continue to keep you updated on this issue. TV stations will continue to work closely with the FCC to ensure that the spectrum auction process follows the intent of Congress and that free, local television remains an indispensable service for the American people.
Continue reading the future of TV blog for all the latest updates on this issue and others that impact free, local broadcast TV.