Butler Reiterates: Most Noncoms Not Giving Up Spectrum

Association of Public Television Stations President Patrick Butler reiterated Monday that the channel sharing pilot program one of his members--KLCS Los Angeles--is participating in is not meant to prove that "all" broadcasters can get by with half their spectrum, but that technology can drive innovation.

In a speech to the 2014 Public Media Summit Monday, a chance for stations to get together, then fan out to make their case to legislators and regulators, Butler made it clear that public broadcasters were "here to stay."

He pointed out that a couple of weeks ago he had "clarified" that the pilot, being conducted with commercial stations, under the auspices of CTIA: The Wireless Communications Association, and with the blessing of the FCC, "is not to prove that all broadcasters can get by with half the spectrum they're currently using - - no, no - - but 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 also reiterated that the "overwhelming majority" of public TV stations would not be giving up spectrum to the auction and would use all that innovative technology to "improve and expand their essential public service missions in American's communities....We are broadcasters, determined to be better broadcasters and more versatile public servants, and we are here to stay," he said.

Butler's first iteration of those principles came Feb. 12, in response to a blog by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, who had visited the L.A. test site and extolled the wonders of sharing: "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.

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

But Butler in that Feb. 12 response said that the L.A. test was 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.