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There is a Limit to FCC Patience

One thing we have learned about the FCC in covering the agency since 1934 is that it hates to take away broadcast licenses and has done so only in the most extreme cases. Nonetheless, when the FCC threatens license revocation, broadcasters listen. The latest evidence came last week. The FCC said its license-revocation club had persuaded 55 stations that had missed last May's deadline for building their DTV stations to get on with the construction. (Another 16 stations were able to get off the hook by coming up with legitimate excuses.)

We don't like license-revocation threats, especially when they are used to enforce the FCC's unjust and unwise indecency rules. But we cannot complain when the FCC uses them in a reasonable manner to efficiently manage spectrum as it is doing in this instance. The FCC is obliged to put spectrum into productive use. Broadcasters cannot just sit on this valuable public resource.

We again applaud the FCC for allowing small-market TV stations to begin their digital broadcasting at low power. Fact is, DTV is a long way from generating revenue for any station. Until that day comes, small-market stations should not have to carry the burden of debt that comes from having to install full-power transmitters and build new towers. And they sure don't need to double their electric bills to reach nonexistent DTV receivers.

The FCC confirmed its policy for dealing with DTV laggards going forward. Stations denied extension requests will be admonished. After six months, they will be notified that they are liable for forfeiture. After six more months, their construction permits will expire, and the FCC will move to eliminate the channel from its table of allocation.

That sounds harsh, and it is meant to be. As we said, the FCC hates to take away broadcast licenses. But it sometimes does.

TVBNY Comes of Age

It was, as they say, a great room. There may have been more TV broadcasters at the NAB convention in Las Vegas, but there was a greater concentration of them at the TVB conference in New York last week. For the better part of a day, several hundred broadcasters—group heads, network execs, GMs and GSMs—mixed it up in the Javits Center and listened to optimistic forecasts from a long list of speakers. (We will ignore Donny Deutsch's pessimism because pessimism is no fun, especially after three years of recession, and besides what do too-hip ad guys know about anything anyhow.) Swelling the crowd to more than 1,000 were auto execs (the conference is tied in the with New York auto show), media buyers, syndicators and reps. The whole biz, in one big hall.

Back in New York for the second year after a long run in Vegas as an NAB add-on, the TVB conference has clearly established itself as a major broadcast gathering. TVB is to sales what NAB is to technology. We look forward to its continued growth of TVB and the renewed growth of NAB.