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NAB, MSTV Take Aim at 60-69 Plan

A federal plan to pay cash to broadcasters in order to vacate spectrum for
advanced wireless carriers and public-safety users is encountering resistance
within the broadcasting community.

Two powerful groups -- the National Association of Broadcasters and the
Association for Maximum Service Television (MSTV) -- are advising the Federal
Communications Commission that its spectrum-clearing plan would cause signal
interference in the most congested portion of the TV spectrum, channels 2
through 51.

In September, the FCC said 91 operating analog-TV stations located in the
60-through-69 channel band could sell their licenses to wireless phone
companies, rather than returning them to the FCC after the end of the transition
to all-digital TV.

The FCC is planning to auction spectrum in the 60-through-69 band for use by
advanced wireless phone services and for fire and rescue squads, but the agency
wanted to maximize auction revenue by assuring that the spectrum would not be
encumbered by TV stations.

Under the FCC plan, stations in the 60-through-69 band that sell out may
continue to broadcast in analog on their digital-channel assignments within the
core digital-TV spectrum, channels 2 through 51, where hundreds of analog-TV
stations currently operate.

But the NAB and MSTV are telling the FCC that there is no room for 91 analog
stations to migrate to the 'core' 2-through-51 TV band without causing
unacceptable interference to both analog- and digital-TV stations.

Lowell W. (Bud) Paxson, chairman of Paxson Communications Corp., is heading a
group of TV stations in the 60-through-69 band seeking to negotiate with
wireless carriers planning to bid in the June 19 auction for 60-through-69
spectrum. Paxson is also an NAB member.

In an interview Tuesday, Paxson said he believes the NAB's and MSTV's
concerns were overstated, claiming that his company was 'finding room' in the
2-through-51 band for at least 14 of his 19 stations -- 17 analog and two
digital -- within the 60-through-69 band.

The NAB and MSTV said 82 of 91 operating analog stations in the 60-through-69
band have digital assignments in the 2-through-51 core band.

The groups said they found that just two of the 82 stations could operate in
analog in the 2-through-51 band without causing harmful interference to other
stations. The others would need waivers from FCC interference rules, which the
groups said they would strongly oppose.

'The interference caused by this policy will result in many
digital-television receivers going dark within a station's replicated service
area due to the cliff effect of digital transmission,' MSTV said in a filing
endorsed by the NAB.

'Such a result runs counter to the FCC's underlying objective -- the
successful deployment of over-the-air digital television,' MSTV
added.