Public Broadcasters Want To Hold On To Spectrum

Public broadcasters are on the same page as their commercial counterparts when it comes to holding on to their spectrum, arguing that their use is "efficient and productive, and abundantly serves the public interest."

In filings with the FCC and in a meeting with FCC staffers last week at those staffers' request, PBS representatives made their case for why broadcasters should be allowed to continue their multiplatform strategy and how critical the over-the-air DTV component is to it.

The FCC is contemplating how to free up spectrum for wireless broadband. Broadcasters are a big part of that conversation due to the propagation characteristics of their spectrum, which make it beachfront real estate for wireless broadband.

"The free and universal nature of over-the-air broadcasting enables PBS and its member stations to ensure that virtually every household has access to robust, educational content and services, regardless of financial ability or geographic location," PBS told the commission, according to a disclosure statement filed with the FCC.

PBS has pointed out in earlier comments at the commission that their spectrum allocation allows them to deliver HD programming, multicast channels, datacasting services, enhanced emergency alerts when "other communications systems are hopelessly over-taxed."

PBS also argues that public TV is helping drive broadband adoption by increasingly melding its on-air and online content offerings.

Also weighing in from the noncommercial side in defense of broadcast spectrum were a host of public station licensees including universities, state commissions, and nonprofits.

They pointed out that they had borrowed money and spent millions to upgrade to broadcast in digital, which they would need to do to make that money back. They also pointed out they had raised money from viewers with the expectation that it was going to the ongoing digital broadcasting system.

In their comments, commercial broadcasters pointed out that the government and consumers had spent billions on the DTV transition. "This is a point that, for public television stations, simply cannot be understated," said the groups.

"Each of the Public TV Licensees has spent millions of dollars, in many cases tens of millions of dollars, to convert their transmission systems to digital service, implement the transition and acquire digital program production, origination and interconnection facilities. In these extremely difficult times, these funds were raised from institutional licensees, charitable donors, foundations, state governments, and the Federal government, all provided with the firm expectation that these funds, and the facilities they purchased, would continue to provide public television services."

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.