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EOBC to FCC: Getting Channel-Sharing Rules Right Is Crucial

The Expanding Opportunities for Broadcasters Coalition says it agrees with the FCC proposal to allow TV stations to share channels outside of the incentive auction, and also says it should permit stations to change their community of license to do so.

That came in comments to the commission on the proposal. In a June 12 order reconsidering its original channel-sharing proposal, the FCC decided to allow sharing deals to be struck post-auction, something EOBC had sought, and also to allow stations not participating in the auction to strike sharing deals.

In addition to allowing stations to share with other stations outside of their community of license (but still within the same DMA)—necessitating the community of license change—EOBC says the FCC should adopt its proposal to allow LPTVs and translators to channel share with full power and Class A stations.

But the group told the FCC not to adopt its proposal to impose additional restrictions on channel-sharing outside the auction, restrictions it is not imposing on sharing within the auction, one of which was not to allow them to change their communities of license, something the FCC is allowing auction participants to do.

The FCC is also proposing to apply the restrictions to stations "that relinquished their spectrum in the auction and whose initial channel sharing agreement has expired." EOBC says that is not a good idea either. "This is a mistake and would have the Commission impose the very constraints that it sought to avoid in the auction context."

The group says that must-carry rights should only apply to the full-power and class A stations that currently have them so sharing does not result in additional carriage obligations for MVPDs.

EOBC, which represents most of a hundred stations interested in sharing channels at the right price and under the right conditions, says how the agency resolves the issues of sharing between full powers/Class As and low-powers/translators "could influence the auction strategy for a number of broadcasters whose participation is critical to maximizing spectrum reallocation in top markets."

That also means resolving them with enough time for broadcasters to factor them into their decision about auction participation, which they must make this fall.

The comments come the same day the FCC is holding a webinar on channel-sharing rules and procedures.