Sinclair Backs Expedited Process in Auction Suit

Sinclair has joined the National Association of Broadcasters and the FCC in seeking an expedited briefing schedule and hearing of the broadcasters'  challenge to the FCC's incentive auction framework.

“In recognition of the interests of all parties in a speedy resolution of this appeal," said the joint filing, "Sinclair has consented to an accelerated briefing schedule.”

According to Sinclair, the three parties submitted a joint briefing schedule to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia that would wrap up the briefs by Jan. 20, 2015.

If the court is amenable, Sinclair and would file separate briefs Oct. 31. The FCC would file its brief Dec. 9, and its supporters Dec. 19. Sinclair and NAB reply briefs would be due Jan. 13, with briefing closed Jan. 20, 2015. 

Sinclair also said it has also agreed to be in a stand-by pool for early oral argument.

Sinclair said Friday it would join the NAB's brief on its appeal of changes to the FCC calculation of TV station coverage areas and failure to preserve coverage areas of fill-in translators. In addition, Sinclair is appealing the FCC's may order for exceeding the FCC's authority under incentive auction legislation, its decision to require "all displaced television stations to cease operation on their pre-auction channels 39 months after the close of the auction, even if the new channel assignments cannot be brought into use in that time period," which Sinclair says "violates the FCC’s obligation to make all reasonable efforts to preserve broadcast service post-auction."

"Our sole interest is in preserving what broadcasters were promised when the auction legislation was passed – that participation would be voluntary and not harm remaining broadcasters after it is completed," said Sinclair President David Smith. "As designed, however, the auction fundamentally harms broadcasting in general and those of us who will remain when it’s done." 

Sinclair has been one of the most vocal supporters of broadcasters keeping their spectrum, rather than giving it up for auction, and using it to be players in the digital future.

"Our intention is to ask the court to remedy that," he said. "In so doing, however, we are mindful of the interest in moving as quickly as is reasonable. 

"We have gone out of our way to file the appeal early, join with the rest of the industry on common concerns, met the FCC’s demands for an extremely short briefing schedule and agreed to concessions to the interveners.  Our goal is to resolve these issues quickly and permit the broadcast industry to upgrade broadcast television for the 21st century.“

The FCC is trying to hold the auction mid-2015. A broadcaster win would likely push that timetable back. The auction and station repacking have to be completed by 2022.

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.