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California Congress Members to FCC: Preserve Free TV

A number of members of Congress from California have written
the FCC advising it that the FCC should make preserving viewer access to free
over-the-air (FOTA) broadcasting a "top goal" of its incentive
auction rulemaking.

In a letter Dec. 11, a day before the House hearing with FCC
commissioners on the auctions, the legislators pointed to statistics that the
number of viewers relying on FOTA had grown to 54 million, and was continuing
to grow.

Given that California's diverse populations are even more
likely to be over-the-air only viewers than the general population, they said
preserving the service was "absolutely critical."

They said they were concerned that the FCC's incentive
auction proposal -- released in September -- lacks details about border
coordination with Mexico and Canada and details on potential viewer disruptions
from the auction, including potential loss of programming.

At the hearing, FCC chairman Julius Genachowski suggested
the FCC was still in the beginning stages of negotiations, but that he was
confident they would be successful.

They also want some answers on the fate of low-power
stations in California, which are not auction participants and which could lost
their licenses in this latest DTV transition.

They said that freeing up spectrum for wireless was
important, but should not come at the expense of low-power TVs.

Among the members signing on to the letter was Brian
Bilbray, who raised the issue at the hearing. The chairman said the FCC would
work with the committee to preserve LPTVs where it made sense, but also pointed
out that there were obligations to the statute.