Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.) has asked FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler for info on how the FCC is monitoring potential spectrum speculation in the run-up to the broadcast incentive auctions.
In a letter LoBiondo put on his Web site, he says he is particularly concerned about reports of sales of small-market stations are speculative purchases. He also put in a plug for joint sales and service agreements.
"Some have said the purchasers are accumulating small-market television stations only to speculate and profit from the spectrum available during the Broadcast Television Spectrum Incentive Auction," wrote the congressman. "Should this be the case, it seems likely the speculator would sell the station immediately or even close the station post-auction.
LoBiondo posed the following five questions to the chairman:
1. "What criteria and procedure does the FCC utilize during the license transfer filing and approval process that identifies the intent of a purchaser as one intending to operate the station?
2. What criteria and procedure does the FCC utilize during the spectrum auction to mitigate against spectrum speculation?
3. What studies or evaluations has the FCC conducted regarding the potential effects of a spectrum auction (most specifically the Broadcast Television Spectrum Incentive Auction) upon television broadcast stations and the communities they serve? In addition, if such study or evaluation has been conducted, I am requesting the FCC please provide a copy with your reply.
4. What steps is the FCC taking to ensure there will be local news after the auction?
5. Does the FCC understand that it should allow Joint Sales Agreements (JSAs) and Shared Services Agreements (SSAs) for the purposes of continuing and providing expanded public services, such as news?"
Generally speaking, the FCC is more likely to be seeking spectrum from stations in larger markets, where there is congestion and not a lot of available frequencies. But there are some small markets adjacent to larger ones, especially in the Northeast, that could be in play, according to one broadcast exec familiar with the potential auction impact.
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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.