Editorial: Say What?

We’re not sure who is right in all these low-power TV station challenges to the FCC’s spectrum auction.

But from what we can glean, the FCC bears some responsibility for the legal wranglings that have dominated the D.C. federal court of appeals in the past few months and could possibly delay the start of the auction.

LPTV stations were almost guaranteed to take on the FCC given that most don’t have a lottery ticket to the possible multi-, multi-millions in potential spectrum payouts. But the filings indicated the FCC made some of its own trouble.

One LPTV owner not allowed in the auction said it had relied on FCC staff advice.

The FCC’s defense recalled Otter’s—slightly adjusted—admonition to Flounder in Animal House: “You [screwed] up, you trusted us.”

“Videohouse’s claim that it relied on staff advice to delay filing the Form 302-CA is unavailing,” the FCC said in denying the LPTV owner’s request to stay the March 29 start of the auction. “Entities that rely on informal staff advice do so at their own risk.” Seems to us the FCC’s staff should not be giving bad advice, officially or unofficially, with broadcasters’ future at stake.

In the case of Latina Broadcasters, the FCC conceded that while it told the LPTV owner it was eligible for the auction, it was a mistake—a mistake not discovered, or at least revealed, until Latina had applied to the auction and a month after the deadline for application.

Again, the FCC may be on solid legal ground, but it is hardly confidence-inspiring when its defense is that it was a mistake to rely on its staff.