FCC Approves Channel-Sharing Test

The FCC, as expected, has granted a pair of Los Angeles TV stations special temporary authority to test channel sharing. It will be a six-month test, and since one station is commercial and the other noncommercial, there can be no ads on the noncommercial side of the shared spectrum.

It came as no surprise since the FCC encouraged the test and FCC chairman Tom Wheeler had already signaled he was looking forward to getting the results.

CTIA: The Wireless Association is teaming on the test, which was proposed in response to the FCC's own suggestion that it wanted to authorize a channel sharing pilot program, or maybe more, to demonstrate how broadcasters can successfully share. The FCC's goal is to encourage broadcasters to share so they will give up spectrum to the incentive auction.

Wheeler has called sharing essentially a no lose proposition, while the National Association of Broadcasters is concerned that broadcasters would lose the ability to be competitive by giving up spectrum that could be used for advanced services.

In a letter to CTIA and the two stations, noncommercial KLCS and KJLA, the FCC's Media Bureau said it approved the test because "it may help to demonstrate the feasibility of successful channel sharing between two independently owned stations." In addition, "it also may serve as a model for other stations contemplating participation in the incentive auction, using the channel sharing option, and provide information about the technical implementation of channel sharing agreements."

The FCC will treat the stations as separate for the purposes of regulation, meaning all the public interest obligations apply to each.

The FCC wants a report on the test within six months, and another should it extend the special temporary authority.

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.