Wheeler: Broadcaster Auction Challenge Is Groundless

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler did not appear too happy with broadcasters for filing suit against the auction. He said they were throwing up roadblocks to addressing mobile broadband spectrum issues, wind up delaying the auction, and said there arguments have not validity.

"As you know, the National Association of Broadcasters sued the FCC to challenge our rules for the auction," he said in a speech at the CTIA convention in Las Vegas.

"If they were to win, the effect would be to delay the auction, notwithstanding NAB’s claims to the contrary. We are confident the courts will find that we have carried out the mandate of Congress and the NAB’s arguments are groundless. However, the fact of the matter is they have gone to the judicial branch to throw up roadblocks to further progress on addressing the spectrum needs of mobile services."

The National Association of Broadcasters sued the FCC last month over the way it plans to calculate TV station coverage areas and potential interference after TV stations are repacked into smaller spectrum quarters after the incentive auction.

NAB says the FCC plan could result in significant viewership loss and that the FCC changed the methodology in contravention of the statute. The FCC said it updated the data to make it more accurate, but did not change the basic methodology.

“We are disappointed the Chairman is pointing fingers in the auction process, especially at NAB," said Rick Kaplan, EVP of strategic planning and auction point man for NAB. "We have been there constructively every step of the way. And we have been encouraged recently by exchanges with the FCC staff. Apparently, the Chairman seems to want to use NAB as a boogeyman – something to shoot at if his legacy auction fails. At this point, however, if things go south he has no one to blame but himself. We continue to be engaged with whomever wants to see this auction succeed for all involved.”

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.