Spectrum Auction Authority Passes in House

The Republican payroll tax extension bill, which also
includes spectrum incentive auction legislation, has passed the House of Representatives,
which marks the furthest such legislation has gotten in either House.

The legislation, which passed 234-193, essentially
incorporates the Republican House version of legislation that authorizes the
FCC to compensate broadcasters for returning spectrum that will then be
re-auctioned for wireless broadband use.

Broadcasters have said they do not oppose voluntary
reclamation and auctions so long as the FCC protects the coverage areas and
interference protections of broadcasters left behind.

The bill has such protections, and would compensate
broadcasters and cable and satellite operators for the cost of
"repacking" TV stations -- having them move and share channels to
free up contiguous blocks for auctioning.

A handful of Republicans voted against the bill, and
about the same number of Democrats voted for it. The Senate is unlikely to pass
the payroll tax bill in its current form, and the president has pledged to veto
it.

Since Democrats have major issues with the spectrum bill,
it may have to modified if it is to be part of an ultimately acceptable
package, or deleted and voted on as a stand-alone at a later date.

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.