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Boren Says FCC Must Protect Broadcasters

Add Oklahoma Democrat Rep. Dan Boren to the list of legislators pushing for more specific protections for broadcasters in any spectrum incentive auction.

In a letter Friday to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Boren advocated for the four basic protections that the National Association of Broadcasters and major net affiliate associations have coalesced around as key to any voluntary auction.

Those are that the FCC should hold only one auction, not force any moves from UHF to VHF (FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has already said the FCC would not); compensate broadcasters for their moves and, most importantly, be required to recreate the coverage areas of TV stations repacked after spectrum reclamation, which broadcasters point out will, by definition, not be voluntary. Boren used the term "required," which is broadcasters preference over the "reasonable efforts" tenor of language in both a Senate incentive auction bill and a House Republican draft from Reps. Greg Walden (R-ore,) and Fred Upton (R-Mich.).

"I believe it is essential to protect television viewers throughout a voluntary auction process," he wrote.

Walden held a hearing in the Communications Subcommittee last week on his bill, which could be market up as soon as the end of this week, according to someone tracking the bill's progress.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.), who was the driving force behind the Senate bill wants to get something to the President before the tenth anniversary of 9/11--the auctions will help pay for a broadband emergency communications network recommended by the 9/11 Commission--but Walden has said he was not going to rush the process. At the House hearing last week, both Republicans and Democrats said that they were closer together on a bipartisan bill that it appeared. The major sticking point appears to be whether to auction the spectrum for the emergency net or allocate it directly.