CBSPlans To Keep Its Spectrum

CBS has taken a slightly less adversarial tone toward the
FCC's spectrum reclamation plan than the National Association of Broadcasters,
group owners representing hundreds of TV stations, and state broadcast

And since it says it is not going to be selling out its
spectrum, or planning to share it with other stations, CBS put an emphasis on
the FCC making sure those left behind are still in control of their own

That came in comments on the FCC's proposals on
channel-sharing, spectrum "repacking" and improving VHF
transmissions. CBS said it "appreciated" FCC Chairman
Julius Genachowski adopting the proceeding and "for placing spectrum
issues front and center on the national agenda by producing the National
Broadband Plan." But it did make clear that it was planning to continue in
the broadcasting business at least the same level of service and would not
be giving up any spectrum for auction.

CBS echoed other broadcasters' demands that the
reclamation/spectrum auction proposal be "truly voluntary." But while
a collection of major TV station group owners including Tribune, Granite,
Nexstar, McGraw-Hill, Allbritton,  and others told the commission that the
proposals, including repacking, were unlawful and should be abandoned
in favor of other alternatives. CBS was not going there.

CBS said that any "repacking" from the UHF to VHF
band must be voluntary--FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has pledged that
would be the case--but did not oppose general repacking--moving stations to new
spectrum to free up larger contiguous blocks for wireless broadband--so long as
the FCC "provide[s] each broadcaster with a replicated coverage area, in
terms of both geography and population; any costs of moving are paid for by the
auction proceeds; and the FCC engages in an educational campaign along with
broadcasters to ensure that American viewers know where to find their relocated
TV station."

That "exact replication" condition is what makes
the CBS position only slightly less hard-line, since it is similar to the
hold-harmless line in the sand the National Association of Broadcasters has

CBS said one of the reasons it was willing to work with the
FCC on helping its proposals meet the nation's broadband needs was that
"CBS values the opportunities broadband yields for wider distribution of
its content," though it immediately added it was committed, for the
"foreseeable future," to the broadcast platform. "CBS does not
intend to participate in the incentive auctions that are being proposed as a
means for reallocating spectrum away from broadcasters," the network said,
and also expects its stations to continue using each of the stations' "allotted
6 MHz."

But CBS also advised the commission to look beyond the
dollars of those cashing out in service of broadband to the needs of those
staying in the broadcasting business. "[T]hose entities leaving
broadcasting in exchange for a cash pay-out will no longer be serving the
public interest as opposed to broadcasters who elect to remain in the business
of providing a critical and valuable service to the American people," CBS
pointed out.

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.