O'Rielly: FCC Eyeing 10% of Stations for Spectrum Reclamation

Some 200 full-power stations, or 10% of the 1,800 total, will have to give up spectrum if the FCC is going to meet its UHF spectrum-clearing target for the incentive auction.

That is according to FCC commissioner Michael O'Rielly, who was talking about the auction in a speech to the Association of National Advertisers in Washington.

Not all of them would be getting out of the business, since to free up that spectrum some could move from UHF to VHF or channel-share. But that still means big changes for the broadband business, especially since those not participating—or not winning—will also be affected by the massive station repack after the auction.

"Some believe that broadcast television is dying," he told the advertisers, "while others believe that it will continue to thrive and grow." O'Rielly fell somewhere in the middle. "The truth is that broadcasting still has a place in the communications environment, but it will probably continue to shrink, albeit not in an abrupt manner."

He conceded that with more choices from the Internet, including over-the-top video, broadcasting was getting less "direct attention," but said that could change. "While the so-called millennials may not be a significant portion of the broadcasting audience today, people’s preferences tend to change as they get older, get married and have families," he said.

O'Rielly took a gentle shot at Nielsen (OK, maybe not so gentle), adding that "as the days of old, unsophisticated Nielsen ratings decline, technology will continue to improve, allowing programmers to better analyze overall viewership and advertisers to better target audiences."

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.