LPTV Coalition: Licensed Stations Must Have Priority

The LPTV Spectrum Rights Coalition says it can get behind the FCC's TV station repack plan, including its proposal to reserve a vacant channel for unlicensed use, but not if unlicensed is given priority over licensed low powers and translators.

That is according to an ex parte filing on a meeting between the coalition and top incentive auction execs and bureau chiefs.

The FCC has proposed that "vacant" means a channel left over after it has found new homes for full-powers and class As in the post-incentive auction repacking of TV stations below channel 37, but not necessarily for the translators and other low powers that were not given signal protections in the incentive auction legislation.

That isn't going to cut it with the coalition.

"If no priority is given" to licensed low powers and translators before a market is determined to have a "vacant" channel, the coalition told the execs, the FCC is not adhering to its public interest mandate.

Broadcasters, low power and high power, have signaled their unhappiness with various parts of the incentive auction framework approved Aug. 6 in a party line vote—Republicans dissenting.

If they want to petition the FCC to reconsider that vote, they will have 30 days to do so after the text of the FCC public notice is published in the Federal Register—which has not happened yet. If they want to go to court instead, they will have 60 days after publication.

The FCC has suspended, at least briefly, the comment deadlines on that vacant-channel proposal due to concerns, including by the National Association of Broadcasters, over prioritizing unlicensed over licensed.

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.