Noncoms: FCC Obliged to Reserve Noncom spectrum

Representatives of the Big Three noncommercial broadcasting groups met with FCC officials earlier this week to argue for reserving at least one channel for public broadcasting in each market after the spectrum auction.

The groups had petitioned the FCC for that change after its original proposal did not set aside those channels. According to sources, the proposed resolution of that and other petitions to reconsider its spectrum auction framework also does not include granting that request, which prompted the noncoms to take their case directly to the commission. The item is being circulated among the other commissioners and changes are still at least possible.

In the meetings, Lonna Thompson, executive VP, COO, APTS; Cindy Campbell, VP, Corporation for Public Broadcasting; and Eric Wolf, VP, and Thomas Rosen, senior counsel, at PBS, argued that the FCC "has both the authority to reserve a portion of the public airwaves for noncommercial educational service and the obligation to continue doing so."

Without that set-aside, they warned, it could adversely impact minority communities and others reliant on over-the-air TV.

"The Commission has never made the continued existence of noncommercial educational reserved spectrum subject entirely to market forces and cannot reverse this well-settled policy now," they argued.

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.