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NAB: FCC Showing 'Unfounded Favoritism' in Auction

The National Association of Broadcasters may be OK with the FCC's early 2016 broadcast incentive auction time frame and supportive of a successful auction for all parties, but it still argues that the FCC is showing "unfounded favoritism for wireless and unlicensed operations over TV broadcasting," effectively treating full power TV stations "as mere obstacles to be cleared out of the way as soon as possible after the auction, regardless of the feasibility of transitioning to a new channel..."

That is according to comments filed by NAB on how the FCC should define "commencement of operations" and how it should not be in such a hurry to displace broadcasters in the station repack following the auction.

Full power TV stations have a 39-month deadline for exiting their spectrum, while low-powers and translators, which can't participate in the auction and aren't protected against interference after it, will be given until the commencement of wireless service by new license holders.

NAB argues that the FCC's approach to low-powers and translators is the right one, allowing them to remain on the air until a wireless company has begun site commissioning tests (rather than simply signaling its intent to do so). But NAB says that should be the same for full-powers and class As, rather than the current hard 39-month deadline.

"The Commission’s guiding principle for the transition of the band should be to avoid displacing incumbent operations until new wireless licensees are actually going to use the specific repurposed spectrum at issue and continued incumbent operations would create interference with new wireless operations," it told the FCC.

Given that, said NAB, "we are perplexed that the Commission did not extend this same level of protection to full power and class A stations by allowing them to remain on the air under the same conditions after the current 39-month deadline set forth in the Incentive Auction Order. There is no reason to force full power and class A stations that have been unable to transition to their new channels off the air before a wireless licensee commences operations in the area."

NAB also said the FCC should not have proposed displacing LPTVs and translators from the guard bands and duplex gap (buffer spectrum between TV and wireless operators and between wireless uplink and downlink spectrum, respectively) until a wireless operator has the "commence operations" definition.

"The Commission continues a disturbing and unprecedented trend of elevating unlicensed operations, in this case unlicensed operations in the duplex gap and guard bands, over licensed LPTV and TV Translator stations," NAB said.

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.