Wheeler: L.A. Test Makes Compelling Case For Channel Sharing

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler says the results of the Los Angeles channel sharing test demonstrates the once in a lifetime opportunity the incentive auctions provide to both get a payday and remain in business. It is an argument he has been making frequently as the FCC tries to get broadcasters to give up spectrum for auction.

“Los Angeles stations KLCS and KJLA have provided real world evidence that channel sharing presents a significant opportunity for broadcasters to continue their existing business on shared spectrum and take home a check for spectrum they voluntarily relinquish in the incentive auction," said Wheeler after the results were released Friday of a pilot project—motormanned by CTIA: The Wireless Association and approved by the FCC—that enlisted a pair of Los Angeles TV stations, one commercial and one noncommercial, to demonstrate that they can share spectrum and remain a going concern.

"By demonstrating the feasibility of combining multiple HD streams onto a single channel or combining one or two HD streams with several SD programs, the pilot project has made a compelling case for channel sharing. In business, it is very rare to be able to have your cake and eat it too. It is my hope that broadcasters closely study the channel sharing pilot project report as they consider the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity offered by the upcoming incentive auction.”

“The Association of Public Television Stations (APTS) applauds KLCS, KJLA and CTIA for running this channel sharing pilot,” said Lonna Thompson, EVP and COO of the Association of Public Television Stations in response to the release of the data.. “The test results will help inform both non-commercial and commercial stations as they discuss what’s best for their stations with regards to spectrum and channel sharing moving forward.”

APTS President Patrick Butler has said that he expected the overwhelming majority of his members would not choose to share, but would keep their spectrum and expand their services. (http://www.broadcastingcable.com/news/washington/apts-la-test-isnt-about...).

"NAB is very appreciative of the effort on the part of APTS, CTIA and the stations KLCS and KJLA for their report on the channel sharing pilot,” said NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton. “Many of the technical issues identified are very familiar to broadcasters as part of the industry's extensive experience with multicasting. NAB agrees with the report's observation that every individual broadcaster will need to determine for itself whether channel sharing is a worthwhile pursuit. As it notes, the report does not examine the business, legal and practical implications of sharing, which are novel and require careful consideration. NAB will continue to work closely with broadcasters to think through how best to address those complex issues."

“This trial shows that channel sharing among local broadcasters is a realistic and viable option to control expenses while continuing to play a vital role in their communities,” said House Communications Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Vice Chairman Bob Latta (R-Ohio) in a joint statement. “We applaud this collaboration and encourage pro-innovation efforts that provide concrete, actionable information so that broadcasters can meaningfully consider their options prior to the spectrum incentive auctions that were included in the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012.”

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.