Videohouse: FCC Is Playing Spectrum Auction 'Gotcha'

And the legal beat goes on.

LPTV station owner Videohouse told a D.C. federal court Wednesday that the FCC is trying to force it into "the ultimate game of gotcha," but that the court should step in to stop it, and the start of the spectrum auction.

That came in its filing to the court supporting its request for a stay of the March 29 auction start date.

The briefs have been piling up at the court as LPTV owners seek access to the spectrum auction and its hundreds of millions of dollars in potential payouts and post-auction protections for TV station signals.

In the latest filing—the FCC made its case to the court in opposition to the stay on March 8—Videohouse said that the FCC did not reach a verdict on its auction status with the promptness the court had expected and directed when Videohouse asked the court to force the FCC to decide via a writ of mandamus.

"Relying on the FCC’s assurances that an order was forthcoming and that the agency could allow Videohouse into the auction if the Court ruled in its favor before March 29, the Court denied mandamus relief," Videohouse reminded the court.

"Over the next seven weeks, the FCC took no action, forcing Videohouse to return to the Court and again seek mandamus relief. The next day, the FCC denied the Reconsideration Petition," it said.

That, said Videohouse, was the root of the FCC's "gotcha" tactic. "The FCC has created the circumstances in which Videohouse has been forced to seek a stay of the Auction. Ignoring its previous assurances of meaningful judicial review, it now cites those circumstances as a reason to defeat Videohouse’s claim via procedural maneuvering rather than on the merits."

The court separately is considering a request by LPTV Latina Broadcasters of Daytona Beach for either a stay of the FCC's decision not to let it in the auction, or failing that a stay of the March 29 start.

That is actually the date by which broadcasters have to declare whether and how they will participate. The actual online auction likely won't begin until early May, though the court is not likely to rule on the underlying auction challenges from Videohouse et al. (two other LPTVs joined the suit, but not the stay requests) and Latina until at least late May, given that oral argument in Videohouse is scheduled for May 9.

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.