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LPTVs Threaten To Sue FCC Over Spectrum Auction

A coalition of low-power TV licensees concerned about their fate in the FCC's repacking of stations after incentive auctions has threatened to sue the commission if it does not conduct an LPTV impact study before any final auction rulemaking is voted.

FCC acting chairwoman Mignon Clyburn has said the commission is on track for completing that rulemaking by year's end.

In a filing this week with the commission, the LPTV Spectrum Rights Coalition said it was drawing a line in the sand and that it could not leave its collective fate "to the whims of legal bureaucrats who do not in any way know our businesses...Without such a study being done prior to any final rule making and order, the Coalition will be forced to initiate legal action."

The FCC is not required by the spectrum auction legislation to do so, but the coalition says Congress had a responsibility under the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA) to ask the CBO to conduct a study on the legislation's impact on low powers. It argues that its own study shows a potential $1 billion impact on LPTV service, "way more than the $145 million a year UMRA trigger."

The coalition represents members holding 550 licenses in 31 states. The group says that not all its members support the threatened suit, but all agree that the Spectrum Act "imperils LPTV service." While the act directs the FCC to insure that it preserves the coverage areas and interference protections of all full-powers, it does not do the same for low powers, which are not eligible to participate in the auction.

The coalition also suggests that the FCC "convene a special fact-finding work session" with the coalition as well as with the National Translator Association, and the Broadcasting Alliance, which also represent LPTV stations and translators, to "ascertain the impacts of the auction and channel repacking on the LPTV service."

An FCC spokesperson was not immediately available for comment at press time.