FCC Denies Complaint Over Ex Parte on Wireless/Broadcaster Meeting

According to the LPTV Spectrum Rights Coalition, the FCC has denied its complaint about the lack of published details on a meeting between FCC officials and broadcasters and wireless company stakeholders in the upcoming incentive auction.

The coalition complained that the ex parte notice of the meeting contained insufficient details about what was discussed or potentially decided. The ex parte did say the parties had talked about collaborating on as expeditious a transition as possible. Broadcasters and wireless operators will have to share some spectrum according to the FCC's current auction framework, and do some coordinating as broadcasters move off of spectrum and wireless onto it in the repack.

But the coalition wondered whether the collaboration discussed might rise to the level of collusion between sellers and buyers and just what constituted the "expeditious" the parties were talking about. It also pointed out that the coalition and its LPTV members were not represented, even though some 400-plus LPTVs have auction eligible class A licenses.

The coalition sought a more detailed filing, but the FCC said no, though it did say the meeting was about the challenges of repacking after the auction.

According to the coalition, this was the FCC's response:

"Based on our review, we conclude that, given the nature of the meeting, the notice filed by NAB is adequate," the FCC said. Actually, more than adequate, since it later added: "Arguably, under these circumstances, there was no need to file an ex parte notice of the meeting at all."

The circumstances were that the FCC said it had been informed that "the purpose of the meeting was to encourage the private stakeholders present to confer among themselves (apart from the Commission) about the challenges associated with repacking and to see whether they could agree on measures that might address these challenges and serve the interests of both broadcasters and carriers. The meeting was not intended to present views to FCC staff but merely to lay the groundwork for future discussion. At such time as the private stakeholders had views to present to the FCC, these would be fully disclosed in detail."

The coalition points out that there were numerous broadcasters not represented in the meeting to try to come to an agreement on a repack that could affect class As as well as other LPTVs and translators that will be affected by the repack.

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.