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Donovan Says Spectrum Reclamation Could Pose Problems For Cable Ops

Broadcasters' top spectrum lobbyist says the FCC's broadcast spectrum
reclamation proposal could pose problems for cable operators as well.

Donovan, who heads the Association for Maximum Service Television, told
an American Cable Association audience Tuesday (April 20) in Washington
that reclaiming 120 MHz of spectrum from broadcasters, as the FCC is
proposing, would mean another big move of channels.

He said that
if the FCC tries to reduce the current 2-15 allotment for broadcasters
to 2-30, close to 700 stations will have to be moved, reducing service
areas or at least service areas without interference.

For smaller
operators, he said, that may mean a tougher time getting that signal to
the cable headend or receive site.

Donovan warned not to mistake
problems with network architecture and the much-vaunted spectrum
crunch. He said some of the problems have been distance separations and
tower issues rather than a lack of spectrum, and that handle the
acknowledged appetite for online video, broadcasting's point-to-point
architecture might be a way to accomplish that.

Something that is
already causing problems for broadcasters and cable operators is
retransmission consent negotiations, though broadcasters argue it is
just a muscular marketplace at work.

was something of a Daniel in the lion's den
surrounded by small and midsized cable operators who liken retrans
system to
"extortion." He as much as acknowledged that he was taking a position in

opposition to many in the room, saying he might need his three
hockey-playing sons to help get him to his car safely after the

Cable operators say the
competitive landscape has changed, the process is broken and skewed
toward broadcasters via must-carry on must-buy tiers, syndicated
exclusivity and network nonduplication rules. Donovan, who lobbied for
retrans back in the mid-1980's countered that cable had the benefit of
pole attachment rates and the franchise system on the other side of the
equation. He also says that the market hasn't changed that much,
particularly Adam Smith's theories about it being the best arbiter.