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NAB to FCC On LPTVs: Attention Must Be Paid

The National Association of Broadcasters has joined with the National Religious Broadcasters and others to back low-power TV and translator advocates concerned about their future after broadcast incentive auctions.

LPTVs are essentially second-class citizens in the auction, with no interference protections, a point made last week to the commission by the Advanced Television Broadcasting Alliance (one of the aforementioned "others"), which said it took issue with that secondary status.

In the combined filing to the FCC, the broadcasters urged the commission to do everything it could to preserve the benefits of both LPTVs and translators and insure they are not undermined by the auction.

LPTVs and translators often provide the kind of diverse programming the FCC has said it wants to encourage, are ownership opportunities for minorities, another FCC priority, and can be the only access to free TV for some viewers in hard-to-reach areas, the groups said, all values the FCC has acknowledged and even highlighted.

Given those public interest benefits, NAB et al argue the FCC needs to make sure that in its upcoming spectrum auction framework—being voted on May 15—that:

1. "It should refrain from reclaiming more broadcast spectrum than required to create a nationwide band plan for the forward auction.

2. "Any repacking should take into account existing LPTVs and translators and to the extent possible minimize the effect of repacking on those operations.

3. "The Commission should make all reasonable efforts to provide replacement channels for 'fill-in' translators, including digital replacement translators, which are essential for many full-power stations to reach significant portions of the populations they serve today.

4. "As was the case during the digital transition, LPTVs and translators should be able to continue to operate until wireless operations are implemented and operational.

5. "The Commission should consider establishing an industry working group consisting of LPTV and translator interests to develop transition plans and processes that will minimize the effects of repacking on LPTVs and translators."

Broadcasters were preaching to the choir when it came to FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. In a speech at a WiFi event this week, she said: " Low power television and translators also play an important role in communities across the country—and can extend the reach of television in rural areas. Plus, lives depend on medical telemetry. So these services need protection."