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NBC Affils Concerned About Simultaneous Spectrum Auction

NBC's TV station affiliates are concerned about the FCC's
plans to hold reverse and forward spectrum incentive auctions at the same time.

The FCC has sought comment on that suggestion, but said in
its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that it might make more sense to hold the
reverse auction, in which broadcasters bid to see who will give up their
spectrum to the FCC for the lowest price, and the forward auction -- that
spectrum goes to the highest bidder -- at the same time.

In meetings with FCC officials Tuesday, according to FCC
documents, members of the NBC Television Affiliates board, led by president/chairman
Jordan Wertlieb of Hearst and Ralph Oakley, vice chairman of the affiliates
group and president of Quincy Newspapers, said they were concerned that if the
FCC does conduct simultaneous auctions, "there will be no safety net
available in the event that the predictive engineering models have
miscalculated the amount of spectrum actually necessary to repack the remaining
television stations" consisted with the statutory mandate to preserve
coverage areas and populations. They told the FCC officials that such
preservation must be in fact, not simply in theory.

They also called for a fair, transparent and
"technically sound" auction process, all of which the FCC has pledged
to do.

Broadcasters have held numerous webinars with FCC officials
on the subject, and are looking for more info this Friday (Oct. 26), when the
FCC holds its first incentive auction workshop.

The FCC is seeking comment on its proposed framework for the
auctions, whose final rules it plans to vote on sometime mid-year 2013.

While they were there, the affiliates also talked about what
they said were their other issues of greatest concern. Those were that the
retransmission consent regime is working and that government intrusion would
unfairly benefit Pay TV operators, and that the FCC needs to relax media
ownership rules.

The FCC is not expected to take action anytime soon on
clarifying good faith negotiations or possibly waiving exclusivity and
nonduplication rules during retrans impasses, both of which it teed up in an
open rulemaking proposal well over a year ago. The affiliates called those
rules a safety viable for the public.

On media ownership, they said relaxing and modernizing the
rules was necessary to ensure broadcasters remain a "strong and valued
source of local journalism."

They also put in a pitch for the public benefit of shared
services and joint sales agreements, which the FCC has signaled it might
consider counting toward local ownership limits.

"Restricting such arrangements would not increase
diversity or localism, but would have the opposite effect by eliminating
efficiencies that promote stronger public service."