Pai: Broadcasters Need to Accept New FCC TVStudy Software

Republican FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai advised broadcasters Friday to accept new FCC TVStudy software - the so-called OET 69 update broadcasters have been criticizing - that the FCC wants to use to calculate coverage areas and interference potentials for TV stations in a post-auction world.

That came at Friday FCC public meeting featuring an update on the incentive auctions. Office of Engineering and Technology chief Julie Knapp said that the new software - the old software is almost a decade old - is essential to a successful auction.

Broadcasters have argued the software and data used should be that in existence when the incentive auction law was passed, and that to do otherwise does not square with that law, and in any case is fundamentally flawed.

But in his comments on Friday's presentation on the status of the incentive auctions, Pai said: "[B]roadcasters should support updating our software so that it can work on modern computer systems, run more quickly, and perform the type of analysis that will be necessary to support the incentive auction. Likewise, they should be open to including the most recent census data in that software."

On Feb. 4, the FCC quietly released a proposed update to computer modeling (OET Bulletin 69), which the FCC uses to determine TV station coverage areas and interference potential. It was less quiet after TV Technology scribe Deborah McAdams, then B&C, reported on the document, which is used to help figure out how stations will fit in the reconstituted spectrum band after the auction.

The incentive auction legislation instructs the FCC to make its best effort to replicate coverage and interference protections. That information will be important when the FCC has to repack stations after the incentive auctions, as well as in determining access to in-market and out-of-market stations for satellite carriers. That is an issue that will also arise in the reauthorization of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act at the end of next year, which Congress will start to look at in a House Communications Subcommittee hearing next week.

One big proposed change to the Longley-Rice signal propagation model (how TV and radio signals travel) is that it would now be based on 2010 census data rather than 1990 census data, which means it reflects a 24% population jump and different population distribution.

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.