FCC's O'Rielly: Govt. Wants Broadcasters to Do More With Less

FCC commissioner Michael O'Rielly told a New York State Broadcasters Association audience that the FCC needed to limit the variability of its post-incentive auction band plan and try to avoid inter-service interference and conflict between broadcasters and wireless operators.

In his speech to the association, according to a prepared text, O'Rielly said that a common theme in the relationship between broadcasters and the federal government was being asked to do more with less and "continually rising to the challenge."

O'Rielly joined broadcasters in criticizing the FCC's proposal last week to set aside a channel after the incentive auction for the use of unlicensed devices—wireless mics will have to share that channel. "If the Commission were to proceed down this path," O'Rielly said, "the ability of full-power broadcast stations to make modifications or seek new allotments, after the repacking process, could be limited, endangering the future of the broadcast industry," he said. "I find it ludicrous that the Commission would even consider this, not to mention that it is inconsistent with the Spectrum Act and encompassing Communications Act."

"I would like to personally thank the broadcasting community for continuing to engage with us on this complex undertaking, even when decisions have not been going your way, despite my efforts," O'Rielly said.

The FCC last week rejected numerous broadcast petitions to reconsider parts of the auction, including the timing of the repack, the money to fund it, how the FCC calculates interference between stations and coverage areas, and much more.

O'Rielly said he would continue to oppose decisions reducing auction revenues and funding available to compensate broadcasters. He said that would include opposing reserving low-band spectrum in the forward auction for carriers other than Verizon and AT&T, and the FCC's proposal to put the best, unimpaired spectrum, in that reserve.

O'Rielly suggested that broadcasters, too, needed to speak up on those forward auction issues that could limit the auction. "I respectfully suggest that you not ignore the forward auction and wireless issues in your advocacy. These decisions have the potential to impact your industry – and potentially your individual stations – more than you may think, regardless of whether you opt to continue serving your communities or chose to leave the market," he said.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has proposed keeping the reserve at 30 MHz, rather than expanding it as T-Mobile had asked.

"Generally, I will continue to champion that broadcasters be treated fairly, that the process be as simple as possible so there is comfort in making crucial business decisions, and that burdens on all industries are minimized," he said.

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.