Skip to main content

NAB: Reducing Spectrum Holdings Will Diminish Service

The National Association of
Broadcasters has lined up a broadcast witness with a multiplatform resume to
pitch the continued importance of broadcasting in that mix, including making
the point that if there is a spectrum auction, they need to be able to set a
reserve price, to collect their money, and to be confident that those who
remain will not face future FCC efforts to move them off.

Broadcasters also want Congress to
know that there will be an inevitable diminution of service from reducing their
spectrum holdings, no matter what broadcaster protections are placed on the

According to the written testimony
of Todd Schurz, president of Schurz Communications, for a June 1 House
Communications Subcommittee hearing on spectrum and incentive auctions,
his company owns TV stations, cable systems, newspapers and is invested in 4G
wireless. He is even a founding member of the Mobile 500 Alliance promoting
mobile DTV, yet another potential platform for news and info.

Through that prism of experience,
Schurz still sees a rainbow of opportunity for broadcasters if the FCC does not
put a damper on that vision. He also sees his company continuing to use its
spectrum to serve the public "long after any auctions take place," if
Congress authorizes them.

His message to Congress is that
broadcasters can continue to provide news and emergency info and add new
services like mobile and multicasting and more, but only if the FCC lets them.

The FCC is seeking the authority
from Congress to reclaim spectrum from broadcasters--up to 120 MHz to auction
to wireless companies. Some of the auctions proceeds will go to broadcasters to
compensate them for giving up spectrum. The FCC also says it will need to move
and "repack" broadcasters who remain to free up blocks of continuous
bandwidth for wireless. It plans to compensate those broadcasters for any
move-related expenses.

Schurz plans to tell the committee
that broadcasters do not object to a voluntary auction, but only one that does
not "reduced interference protection, relocation to inferior channel
allotments, diminished service areas, or onerous taxes in the form of spectrum

And for the stations that remain, NAB
wants enough spectrum to do HDTV and multicasting and mobile.

For the auction to be truly voluntary,
say Schurz, no broadcaster should have to give up any spectrum, a broadcaster
should be able to set a reserve price (minimum compensation it would get) for
the direct and indirect costs of giving up all its spectrum, or sharing
channels or moving from the UHF to the VHF band; and the FCC must not force any
broadcaster to share channels, move to VHF or convert to a cellularized
architecture of more, lower-powered transmitters.

For those that do decide to stay
around, Schurz and NAB want assurances their spectrum homes are more than

"Congress must ensure that
broadcasters can depend on their spectrum allocations for many years into the
future without facing additional threats to their continued spectrum use,"
says Schurz. "Thus, any legislation on incentive auctions should include a
sunset on the authority of the FCC to use those auctions to repurpose broadcast
spectrum and further protections against additional reallocations of broadcast
spectrum to other services."

Broadcasters also want the FCC to
do some more looking before it leaps. That would include assessing the wireless
industry's ability to be more efficient with the spectrum it has and undertake
a spectrum inventory and usage study.

That is because there will be a
price to pay for reducing broadcasters' holdings, even with all the protections
the NAB is seeking. "Diminishing the spectrum available for
broadcast television, including for mobile DTV service, will diminish the
competition and diversity of services available to American consumers. It also
would lead to a slower, more expensive, and less efficient system for
delivering news-oriented video content," he said. "Congress and the
FCC must weigh and understand the public policy harms of reallocating spectrum
away from free, over-the-air television before taking irreversible steps down
that path."