NAB Targets CTIA 'Smash and Grab' Auction Approach

The National Association of Broadcasters has told the FCC that it should reject "smash and grab" arguments that focus only on repurposing spectrum and threaten to create a process that drives broadcasters "off a cliff."

Instead, it said, the FCC should keep protecting TV broadcasters and their millions of viewers as it considers petitions to make broadcaster-backed changes to the broadcast incentive auction framework.

In a filing Monday, NAB said that that CTIA: The Wireless Association's opposition to auction changes was essentially cheerleading for "abrogating the rights of broadcasters." That was the approach NAB branded "smash and grab" — as in run roughshod over broadcasters in the rush to recover spectrum.

NAB said broadcasters should not have to underwrite wireless companies' spectrum demands. NAB wants the FCC to treat the $1.75 billion Congress allocated to TV station (and some cable) post-auction repacking costs as a budget, and not reclaim any more spectrum than it can handle with that repacking budget.

It also wants the FCC to make other changes that would insure broadcasters do not lose audience, that it not set an arbitrary deadline — 39 months at the moment — for broadcasters to exit their current channel in the repack, should complete international coordination with Canada and Mexico before the auction, and echoes its dislike of the variable band plan the FCC chose.

NAB actually did not challenge the FCC decisions at the FCC. Instead it went directly to federal court with a particular complaining about how the FCC measures interference and coverage areas. But it is clearly a party in interest and has provided its opinion on the Sinclair et al. challenges — NAB supports them — and the oppositions to those challenges, which NAB opposes.

"CTIA’s high-level but completely unsubstantiated endorsement of a host of Commission decisions in the Report and Order should raise red flags for the Commission," said NAB. "If the FCC continues on its current course, it will be expressly insuring CTIA’s view that the possibility of recovering more spectrum defeats any competing objective.

"The problem is that Congress created a market-driven, voluntary auction, not a process that stampedes broadcasters off a cliff."

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.