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Low Powers Not High on New Auction Bill

Low-power TV stations were not feeling the love, to put it mildly, from a just-circulated draft of a bill from House Energy & Commerce Committee ranking member Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) that could provide TV stations with up to a billion dollars more money to help them transition to new channels after the incentive auction.

The LPTVs who were excluded from the auction and signal protections are also not included in the new bill's additional protections for stations.

With the goal of the bill presented as insuring viewers don't lose access to signals, the LPTV Spectrum Rights Coalition was looking for some protections for its TV station viewership, and not finding it, saying the bill could lead to the end of LPTV and being "sold down the river" to benefit "privileged" auction-eligible stations.

"Congressman Frank Pallone of New Jersey is offering auction eligible stations which are repacked an additional $1 billion if they need it for the repack, but $0 for LPTV and translators," said coalition director Mike Gravino.

"Further, the bill authorizes the FCC to conduct a 'regional repacking' so that the wireless winners can get to their spectrum faster. And in the process, eliminate the opportunity for LPTV and translators to get repacked in a timely manner."

The FCC is expected to have to do a rolling move to new channels, rather than a flash cut, so some stations will have to make the move—and some LPTVs likely have to go dark—sooner than others.

"I will tell you now," warned Gravino in an email, "that if Congress and the FCC think they can dictate to the private sector who gets contracts with tower crews ahead of LPTV and leave us without a way to build out our displacement channels, well prepare for a fight."

Not surprisingly, Gravino wants Congress to include translators and LPTVs in the new bill and called on his members to dial up Pallone to complain.

Adding in LPTVs and translators could be one way to help LPTV stations, which members on both sides of the aisle have said they did not mean to be a casualty of the auction.