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Black Caucus Reps. Seek Broadcaster Protections for Incentive Auctions

With the possibility that FCC incentive auction authority could be made part of a deal to raise the debt ceiling -- part of the projected $20-30 billion in  auction proceeds will go to debt reduction -- a quartet of legislators, all members of Congressional Black Caucus, have asked the leaders of the House to make sure broadcasters protections are included.

In a letter to house Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the House members urged them to make sure that any auctions are truly voluntary, that any repacking of stations preserves coverage areas, does not increase interference, compromise ability to deliver new services, and compensates broadcasters.

Those are all the "essentials" identified by the heads of the major network affiliate associations and incorporated into a bill backed by Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.).

In their letter, Reps. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), Edolphus Towns (D-NY), G. K. Butterfield (D-NC), and Donna Christensen (D-V.I.), all members of the Energy & Commerce Committee, which oversees communications issues, said they were concerned about protecting the diversity of programming.

"It concerns us that many television stations, particularly those independently owned and operated broadcast television networks aimed at minority audiences, could be imperiled if broadcasters are "repacked" onto new channels without sufficient safeguards." It singled out new African American-targeted multicast network, Bounce TV, as one that could be adversely affected.