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LPTV Advocate Mike Gravino Dies

Mike Gravino
Mike Gravino (Image credit: Broadcasting Alliance)

Mike Gravino, managing director of the Next Gen TV Coalition and executive director of the LPTV Spectrum Rights Coalition, has died, according to the Advanced Television Broadcast Alliance and various reports.

Gravino had retired last week to enter a D.C. hospice to deal with pancreatic cancer, former D.C. lobbyist and broadcast executive Preston Padden had tweeted May 29.

FCC chair Ajit Pai called Gravino "a strong advocate for low-power TV stations across the country," and said "he always began and ended every meeting with me with a smile."

FCC commissioner Michael O'Rielly called Gravino a "powerful force for the LPTV community."

Padden called Gravino "a tireless advocate with an endearing charm" and said Gravino was always at ease writing things and saying things Padden would have wanted to say but didn't have the guts to. "He is my hero!"

He was the LPTV industry's hero as well, successfully pushing for funds in the digital TV transition after those stations were initially left out of the repack fund and always advocating for giving LPTV, arguably the Rodney Dangerfields of local TV, the respect they should get.

The coalition was formed in June 2013 and represented the industry during the incentive auction and repack process, most notably helping secure $150 million in repack funding.

Gravino's last email to B&C/Multichannel News was about the pandemic and LPTV's role:

“It is a honor to share the stories of how the LPTV community is responding to the needs of their local communities in this national emergency. These small businesses, with no support from the FCC or Federal government, have taken up the challenge to keep their communities informed by giving considerable air time over to local government meetings and officials. They are producing daily news shows focusing on the needs of their communities, and are creating a constant trusted source of local information. Some are focused on helping local closed businesses get their information out, others are making sure everyone knows where to get food, supplies, and needed critical services. Others are inserting national pandemic PSA’s into national network feeds to keep everyone updated. They go into their stations each day to keep them on the air and to keep the local information flowing.”

“The FCC needs to recognize these unsung local heroes and to acknowledge the valuable and critical roles they are now serving. Unlike the full power primary broadcasters with limited air time to offer the local public, many LPTV stations are turning over their entire programming day and ad insertions to covering the pandemic. They are truly providing the “highest and best use” for their FCC licenses.”

"My heart breaks today with the news of Mike's passing," said Adonis Hoffman, chairman of strategic consulting firm, Business in the public interest, and a former top FCC staffer. "He was one of those rare people who had character, competence and charm. He was indomitable yet humble and always gave both sides of the story to you straight. Whatever future success comes to LPTV, much is owed to the tireless efforts of Mike Gravino, who should be remembered as a Titan of television.  He will be sorely missed."

Gravino was a 1976 graduate of the University of Oregon.

John Eggerton
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.