Washington -- Paxson Communications Corp. is working with others on a plan
designed to clear out TV-station-occupied spectrum that the federal government
wants to auction for billions of dollars.
Paxson chairman Lowell W. 'Bud' Paxson, in a speech here Wednesday, said his
company and other broadcasters that control 40 percent of the spectrum plan to
unveil their proposal in a few weeks.
'The plan needs the blessing of the FCC [Federal Communications Commission],'
On Sept. 12, the FCC is planning to auction spectrum in the 700-megahertz
band for wireless companies that want to deploy next-generation services,
including electronic mail and Internet access.
But the spectrum is occupied by 94 analog TV stations that can remain there
indefinitely. Wireless companies have said the auction will be a flop unless
they know when the TV stations will vacate the spectrum.
Paxson said he has been in discussions with Univision Communications Inc.,
Pappas Telecasting Cos. and other TV-station owners in the 700-MHz band about
vacating the spectrum early. The group intends to hire an investment banker to
supervise the financial side of the proposal.
Paxson pegged the value at the spectrum at between $30 billion and $35
billion. Because his company controls about 10 percent of the spectrum, Paxson
expects to be paid a substantial sum before agreeing to shut down any of his 18
analog stations in the 700-MHz band.
'The formula is that the telco would sign on to this agreement with the
broadcasters prior to the auction. [It] would know in advance what it's going to
cost,' Paxson told reporters after the speech.
Paxson said that if all goes according to plan, he expects to stop analog
broadcasting in the 700-MHz band by late 2003 or early 2004. Consumers who do
not subscribe to cable and do not have digital-TV sets or converters would lose
Pax TV programming at that time.
Paxson declined to explain how his plan would accommodate those consumers.
'You're going to have to wait until you get the plan,' he told
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