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ATBA: Clearing Target Exacerbates Vacant Channel Plan

The Advanced Television Broadcasting Alliance (ATBA) says the FCC's initial clearing target for the spectrum auction of 126 MHz, the most it had figured it could get, means that a quarter of LPTVs and translator stations may not be able to find a new channel in the post-auction repack.

That, they said, makes it even more important that the FCC not approve a proposal to reserve the last vacant channel in a market after those eligible for repacking -- which does not include LPTVs and translators -- are accommodated for unlicensed wireless, the so-called vacant channel proposal.

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Branding that proposal the Google Whitespace Plan after the search giant's push for more TV "white spaces" for unlicensed, ATBA says the plan would be "devastating."

"The post-auction environment will be challenging enough for LPTV and TV translators," said ATBA chairman and deputy general counsel of Gray Television Robert Folliard. "Google's vacant channel proposal would pour gasoline on the fire, leaving hundreds and potentially thousands of additional LPTV and TV Translators without a viable channel and depriving millions of viewers of free, over-the-air service that they currently rely. "

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The FCC has said it will try to mitigate the impact on LPTVs and translators, but has been focused on the stations who are not eligible. A senior FCC official concedes the FCC has not studied the potential impact of the repack on LPTVS.

Elsewhere, the LPTV Spectrum Rights Coalition called it the FCC band plan from hell and pegged the number of potentially displaced LPTVs and translators at 4,632 stations.