LPTV Group Wants Own FCC Forum

The LPTV Spectrum Rights Coalition has taken its pitch for better representation in the FCC auction education process to the new chairman.

According to the coalition, a representative talked with Chairman Tom Wheeler briefly last week — his first week in the job — and sent a follow-up e-mail to pitch an FCC LEARN (Learn Everything About Reverse Auctions Now) session on low-power TV's and translators.

The venue for the meeting was a hallway conversation during the FCC's LEARN session on unlicensed spectrum last week.

Coalition director Mike Gravino said he pointed out that 74% of all TV stations licensees are held by LPTV's and translators — the latter which retransmit TV station signals to hard-to-reach areas. He also said that had there been an LPTV representative on the panel at the unlicensed event, they would have pointed out that were they able to participate, they could lower the price the government pays for the spectrum. He also argues that there are enough LPTVS that still get to have homes post-auction that the government may not be able to create a large swath of unlicensed spectrum in the top 50 markets.

LPTV's and translators did not get the same interference and coverage area protections during the incentive auction repacking as did full-power TV's. They are also not eligible to participate in the reverse auction. But they still need to be accommodated in the remaining broadcast spectrum once the wireless swath is cleared.

"We have a collective $1 billion unfunded mandate to move channels and are not allowed to sell in the forward auction, and we are being squeezed for the remaining channel space by the unlicensed users," said Gravino. "Further, we are being denied flexible use service waivers so that we can deploy today new transmission systems for broadband solutions. And our business model is not allowed to prosper since we do not have MVPD carriage rights or mandated rights to negotiate retransmission fees."

The FCC under acting chair Mignon Clyburn was still talking about releasing the incentive auction/station repacking framework by the end of the year. It is unclear whether the government shut-down or other issues will push that into early 2015, though a number of industry players have said they would not be surprised if it did slip into early next year.

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.