APTS: L.A. Test Isn't About Proving Broadcasters Can Survive on Half Spectrum

The Association of Public Television Stations provided its own take Wednesday on the L.A. channel-sharing test involving one of their own, and it was not exactly in line with FCC chairman Tom Wheeler's blog about the wonders of channel sharing. In fact, APTS indicated most of its members won't be sharing and that the test is not meant to prove broadcasters can exist on a half-ration of spectrum.

"I’ve seen the future, and it’s using 50% less bandwidth to produce a picture with increased quality of up to 300%," Wheeler enthused following a visit to noncom KLCS, one of the two stations participating.

Association of Public Television Stations president Patrick Butler said in a statement that while he appreciated the chairman's enthusiasm, "[W]e should be clear that this pilot is not intended to prove that all broadcasters can get by with half the spectrum they’re currently using. Instead, it’s designed to show that all kinds of good things can happen—for broadcasters and for the public—with advances in compression technology and innovative business arrangements that permit the sharing of significant costs between stations."

He said that while some broadcasters may choose to channel share and use the cost savings and auction revenue to enhance programming, "other broadcasters may choose to keep all their spectrum and use compression technology to provide an unprecedented diversity of programming services."

Wheeler has been promoting the advantages of the former as a once in a lifetime opportunity to stay in business and get a payout.

But Butler said that he was certain that the "overwhelming majority" of stations would opt instead for the latter, keep their spectrum, and expand their services.

He said the test in L.A. is for the "relatively few stations whose economic circumstances warrant an exploration of the channel sharing option to ensure that they can invest more in programming and community service and less in equipment and infrastructure."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.