Skip to main content

NAB Wants FCC Data Suggesting No Fallow Spectrum

The National Association of Broadcasters wants to see the
data driving FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski's assertion in a speech
Wednesday that spectrum hoarding assertions are not true and that there are not
"vacant lots" of spectrum being sat on as a speculative play by cable
and satellite operators.

In a response to the speech, NAB
President Gordon Smith said in a statement smacking of Senatorial courtesy that
NAB "would respectfully ask for an
independent study to confirm Chairman Genachowski's assurances that
spectrum suitable for wireless broadband is not lying fallow, given recent
verbatim remarks to the contrary from current FCC licensees."

In a letter to legislators last month, Smith
asked Congress to investigate various reports that cable and satellite
companies were warehousing spectrum and had admitted it to Wall
street. Genachowski suggested that the fact that they had not yet built
out that spectrum did not mean they were hoarding--for example, they were not
in violation of the FCC's build-out timetable--and in any
event building out already-allocated spectrum would not solve the spectrum

Smith did say he was "encouraged" by the
chairman's promise that spectrum reclamation will be voluntary, and
that broadcasters won't be forced into "inferior bands." The FCC
had suggested that broadcasters might be repacked in lower bandwidth to free
the upper UHF spectrum for wireless broadband, but the chairman said the FCC
was proposing making that entirely voluntary.

"We are hopeful that going forward, the FCC undertakes
a thoughtful process that in no way jeopardizes the digital promise that was
made to 43 million Americans who rely exclusively on hyper-local news,
entertainment, foreign language and religious programming offered by free and
local broadcasters," said Smith.

In his speech, the chairman gave a shout-out to
broadcaster's multiplatform future.

"Broadcasters continue to provide important and
valuable programming - and many are creatively bringing their programming to
multiple platforms," he said. "This started years ago with cable and
satellite, and continues as many broadcasters now seek to reach their audience
on wired and wireless broadband, as well as providing free over-the-air TV to
viewers who might otherwise lack access to broadcast programming. Broadcasters'
efforts to become multiplatform programming entities should be encouraged, and
we should work together to remove barriers to such efforts."

But he also said that spectrum policy had to change and that
even with more efficient use of current spectrum, some would have to be
reclaimed and incentive auctions to compensate private users for giving up that
spectrum was a must.

"NAB appreciates
Chairman Genachowski's acknowledgment that hundreds of broadcasters are
developing new and creative business models on multiple platforms to serve
millions of viewers," Smith said.