Coalition of Spectrum Willing Highlights Concern Over Scoring Stations

The Expanding Opportunities for Broadcasters Coalition met
with FCC officials last week, and left still concerned that the FCC would
discourage broadcaster participation in the auction by holding to a plan to pay
larger broadcasters more than smaller ones.

Such differential pricing according to size or audience, the
coalition has said, is not relevant to the price of a station's spectrum. It
says only two factors should be considered, 1) the effect of the station's
spectrum on the subsequent repacking of other stations after the reverse
auction portion of the incentive auction, and 2) the market price as determined
by the competitive bids by broadcasters to give up spectrum.

According to coalition executive director Preston Padden in
a letter to the commission on Sunday, he is concerned by comments from Wireless
Bureau chief Ruth Milkman and others at the meeting that they sill
"expressed a desire to retain the flexibility to pay more to 'big'
stations and less to 'small' stations.

Padden said that if by 'big' that the FCC might have to pay
more for a station that had a big effect on repacking of other stations, that
was understandable, but if that still mean according to size or audience,
population covered, or enterprise value, then that would be "picking
winners and losers" and suggested the FCC might wind up the ultimate loser
by reducing the amount of spectrum it was able to reclaim and was already
"driving away from the auction the very stations most likely to otherwise
consider surrendering their spectrum." That would be the smaller stations
in the bigger markets, the markets where the FCC most needs spectrum. "The
Coalition urges the Commission to clarify, at the earliest opportunity, that it
will not weigh or 'score' a station on any basis other than its preclusive
effect on repacking other stations," Padden wrote.

The coalition and others will have a chance to
give more input to the commission May 3 when it holds a workshop on its auction
band plan.

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.