Court Sets New, Expedited Auction Challenge Schedule

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has agreed to a new, expedited schedule to hear the broadcaster challenges to the FCC's broadcast incentive auction.

The National Association of Broadcasters challenged a portion of the FCC's May incentive auction order and got an expedited schedule (the FCC supported the request for fast-tracking the challenge).

But the court said back in early September it might have to adjust the schedule if any other challenges were filed. Sinclair then challenged the entire order in mid-September, but also said it supported an expedited schedule.

The new schedule by order of the court Oct. 22 sets Nov. 7 for a joint brief from NAB and Sinclair; Dec. 16 for respondents brief, Dec. 24 for briefs from parties intervening on either side; Jan. 20 for reply briefs, and Jan. 27 for final briefs. The court did not set an oral argument date. The briefs must make clear the standing of the petitioners to challenge the FCC's administrative action, said the court.

Sinclair joined the NAB's brief on the association's appeal of changes to the FCC calculation of TV station coverage areas and failure to preserve coverage areas of fill-in translators. In addition, Sinclair is appealing the FCC's entire May order for exceeding the FCC's authority under incentive auction legislation, its decision to require "all displaced television stations to cease operation on their pre-auction channels 39 months after the close of the auction, even if the new channel assignments cannot be brought into use in that time period," which Sinclair says "violates the FCC’s obligation to make all reasonable efforts to preserve broadcast service post-auction."

“Given today's Court Order approving an expedited briefing schedule in the appeals from the FCC’s Incentive Auction Report And Order, it is clear that the Auction can begin in 'mid-2015' notwithstanding the Court Appeals," said Padden. "Our Coalition is grateful to NAB and Sinclair for agreeing to the expedited schedule."

Padden is executive director of the Expanding Opportunities for Broadcasters Coalition, which comprises station owners who may be interested in putting up spectrum for the auction at the right price.

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.