NAB Says FCC Must Conduct Translator, LPTV Impact Study

The issue of the impact of the broadcast incentive auction on translators, which relay full-power TV station signals to hard-to-reach areas, is getting a lot of attention this week.

On July 27, a day before FCC chairman Tom Wheeler was grilled on the issue in the House Communications Subcommittee, executives from the National Association of Broadcasters and others met with commissioner Mignon Clyburn and staffers for Wheeler and other commissioners to talk about the fate of low powers.

That is according to a filing on the meeting with the FCC.

NAB is particularly concerned about the FCC proposal to reserve the last vacant channel in a market for unlicensed use.

While the legislation establishing the auction did not include participation by LPTVs and translators, which have secondary status to full powers when it comes to channels and interference, NAB said that did not make them "extraneous or expendable." Instead, said NAB, they are "a vital part of the broadcast ecosystem and a lifeline to local news and information for viewers who otherwise could not receive over-the-air service."

NAB concedes that the FCC is not required to protect the stations in the auction, and some will be displaced, "reserving for unlicensed users a channel that would otherwise be available in the broadcast band for television service will force more translators and low power stations off the air."

The broadcasters urged the commission to conduct an impact study of translators and low powers that will be displaced after the auction. Wheeler told Congress this week that the FCC won't know the full impact until after the auction, but NAB said the FCC should do the study assuming a range of different outcomes.

NAB said a study would have no effect on the timing of the auction, and that it would be glad to help with it.

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.