NAB Disses Disparate Dish Treatment in Spectrum Auction

The National Association of Broadcasters is suggesting that the Federal Communications Commission is not being consistent in its treatment of Dish Network in the AWS-3 auction and its treatment of broadcasters when it comes to joint-sales agreements (JSAs).

In a blog posting Thursday (Feb. 19), Jerianne Timmerman, NAB senior VP and senior deputy general counsel for legal and regulatory affairs, suggested the FCC couldn't square the disparate treatments.

That stems from Dish's participation in the ASW-3 auction via two companies in which it holds a majority interest, yet apparently does not count as ownership when it comes to qualifying, or at least applying, for $3 billion in bidding credits.

"How in the world does the FCC square its treatment of various forms of ownership?" Timmerman asked. "Why can't a small TV station in South Dakota or South Carolina sell 20 percent of the advertising time of another station without the FCC saying it 'owns' that station, when Dish can possess an 85 percent interest in a company without the FCC counting that as ownership?"

The FCC voted along party lines last March to consider that a station that sells more than 15% of weekly ad time for another station in the same market would be considered co-owned for the purposes of local ownership station limits.

"NAB and its members have for decades fought the FCC's disparate restrictions on the multiple and cross-ownership of television and radio stations – restrictions that do not apply to competing video and audio providers, including cable, satellite and online," Timmerman wrote. "The FCC must stop this unfair treatment if it truly cares about competition, diversity and localism."

“The Commission takes seriously its obligation to provide bidding credits only to those entities that are eligible to receive them," an FCC spokesperson said. "Existing FCC rules mandate that before awarding any license or bidding credit, the Commission conduct a thorough review of every provisional winner to ensure compliance with eligibility rules. For 20 years, the Commission’s competitive bidding rules have provided flexibility to enable a wide variety of applicants – including small businesses – to participate in the auction process, while including safeguards to protect the integrity of its auction program. As part of the auction closing process, the FCC is carefully review winning bidders’ applications before awarding any bidding credits.”

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.