NAB's Smith: We Will Help Improve Incentive Auction

NAB president Gordon Smith has told FCC chairman Tom Wheeler that NAB has been expanding its advocacy "towards helping the Commission shape and improve the reverse auction" and wants swift resolution of the issues that prompted NAB to file suit.

That is the one where broadcasters will give up some or all their spectrum and either move to other spectrum, share a channel, or get out of the business.

Smith called Wheeler Feb. 5, a day after Fox and Ion, whose CEOs are NAB TV board members, Univision and Tribune met with Wheeler to express their interest in giving up some spectrum under the right circumstances.

According to the filing: "Senator Smith conveyed that, following the release of the Commission’s Public Notice seeking comment on procedures for the conduct of the auction, NAB, as well as the other NAB members who met with the Chairman on February 4, is expanding its advocacy towards helping the Commission shape and improve the reverse auction. In particular, NAB hopes to help the Commission ensure adequate broadcaster participation by making the auction as simple, clear and market-based as possible."

"Senator Smith also told the Chairman that NAB looks forward to the prompt resolution of the pending petition for review of the Commission’s Incentive Auction Order in the D.C. Circuit, which seeks to ensure that, following the incentive auction and the repacking process, broadcasters remain able to serve the same viewers and coverage areas they presently serve."

"We look forward to continuing to work with the Commission and its staff to ensure a successful auction."

Some NAB members, particularly those with large UHF contingents or duopolies in large markets, arguably have a fiduciary responsibility to explore the auction, in which they could give up one of two channels, perhaps put the programming from the relinquished channel on a multicast channel, and collect potentially hundreds of millions from the government—and also be seen as good actors by the FCC.

FCC officials will be briefing broadcasters across the country about the auction starting Feb. 9.

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.