MMTC Slams Vacant Channel as Diversity Downer

The Multichannel Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC) says reserving the last channel in a market for unlicensed use would have a "devastating" impact on diverse programming and ownership of broadcast stations.

The FCC has yet to vote on its "vacant channel" proposal.

MMTC, in a letter to the commission, said that LPTV stations have been one of the most successful ways of getting diverse content to multicultural audiences.

The FCC is proposing that in any TV market where there is an available channel after the post incentive auction repack, it should go to unlicensed, which means that more licensed LPTV's and translators, which are not protected in the repack, could be sent packing or shuttered. The National Association of Broadcaster is also strongly against the move as a blow to diversity as well as unwise, unsound, unwarranted, and illegal.

MMTC says that the loss of diverse full-power stations in the auction--where billions will be up for grabs--combined with the loss of LPTVs would be a double hit for diversity.

"[T]he vacant channel proposal will leave many multilingual audiences without any options for news, information, and emergency programming in a language that they can understand."

The FCC has said that in most markets there would still be two vacant channels after the repack, but MMTC was unpersuaded by that and said the FCC proposal is an illegal violation of the requirement that agency decisions not be arbitrary and capricious.

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.