Gray: FCC Should Give LPTVs Path to Post-Auction Protection

Gray Television has asked the FCC to give —low-power stations, including its 36 LPTVs— the chance to upgrade to Class A status after the broadcast incentive auction.

Gray is not looking to get the Class A status before the auction, which would make them eligible to participate and potentially get big bucks from the FCC if they are in the right markets. Instead, what it wants is for the FCC to launch a proceeding ASAP that gives LPTVs that meet certain criteria a chance for Class A status and — and here is a key — by demonstrating their desire and ability to meet those criteria, gain priority status in applying for post-auction channels.

That is one advantage, said Robert Folliard, Gray Television VP and deputy general counsel. "Another advantage is that qualifying LPTVs that survive the repack would gain much more protection and security from being displaced as a result of future changes that occur after the repack," said Folliard.

"Stations that choose to apply for Class A status and operate as Class A stations for the foreseeable future should be given priority in applying for a displacement channel following the spectrum auction," Gray says in its FCC filing.

LPTVs, with the exception of Class A's, are not protected or guaranteed a new channel post-incentive auction by the FCC, which considers them secondary.

Gray had asked the FCC to prioritize LPTVs for post auction channels based on programming —eight of its stations are affiliated with one of the Top Four networks — but the FCC countered that it did not have the authority to prioritize one type of programming over another.

Gray says this proposal does not prioritize based on programming, but to a certain level of service, i.e. "(1) operate a minimum of 18 hours a day, (2) provide 3 hours of children’s programming a week, and (3) provide 3 hours of locally produced programming a week."

Gray pointed out that DDTV America had sought a new Class A window and said it agreed the FCC has the authority to create one.

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.