DON'T BLAME THE MESSENGER!
The past few newsletters have seemed to caused quite a ruckus in LPTV Land, and I thought I would take this your valuable time and attention to address the concerns which have come across the internets to the desk of the Coalition:
Have we given up the fight to get LPTV into the auction?
Since we started 22 months ago to craft the research, advocacy, and lobbying on behalf of our own major market LPTV licenses, and then yours; and soon added in a few major western tax district TV translator groups as they also wanted in on the fight in DC; and then when some of the major networks with LPTV affiliates which were concerned they would be losing future affiliates; and then the lawyers whose clients were upset, and the engineers losing business, and the equipment manufacturers not getting orders. Then some of the 100+ Class-A licensees which are not auction eligible sought us out, and we just kept growing to the point that we now represent over 175 broadcast related businesses with more 1000 licensed LPTV and TV translator stations, new construction permits in most every state, DC and the territories, and some of the major networks they carry.
We first fought to get LPTV into the auction, and put forth solid and compelling reasoning for why the 112th Congress in 2012 made a mistake by not having the CBO study either the cost/benefits of LPTV as auction eligible, nor the impacts to LPTV and TV translators. We advocated both in the individual member offices with staff, and with the Congressional Committees about this injustice. We talked with the CBO about why it had happened, the reasoning behind the enabling legislation, and forensically figured out who first started the meme which turned into legislative language that LPTV was "secondary to everyone", including new unlicensed users. But no matter how much reasoning we applied to our/your aspirations of being in the auction, Congress had already spent the money and logic be dammed, there was/is no changing their minds about it.
We went from the 112th Congress, to the 113th, and now into the 114th Congress, each and all counting on the auction revenues. We also had to fight back an ill-timed and ill-conceived bill for LPTV in Congress which was created without widespread industry input, and which was not well received. What we got out of the fight was the GAO study about the impacts from the auction on LPTV, although it is mostly about LPTV local content and local services. That study will not even start until later this year and may be completed before the auction, but it is of little use now in what we do. If anything, it is holding back Congress from even discussing any remedy for our plight and the injustice being done.
While this failed advocacy in Congress was being waged, we went full on into the FCC rule making process. Our goals were to prevent the forced "double-building" of new construction permits, harmonize the remaining analog to digital permits with them, make sure the existing channel-6 radio services could continue when converted to digital, and to force the issue about the lack of an economic justification for keeping LPTV out the auction, nor protected in the repacking. Although the FCC said they had discretionary power to do it. We ended up meeting with the Incentive Auction Task Force, Commissioners, and staff more than 30 times. At the 2014 NAB Show, almost a year ago now, we had Chief Lake one-on-one to answer our questions and address our concerns, and had the first LPTV session officially on the NAB Show schedule.
And at that time were told about some very positive potential developments such as the FCC using the TV Study Optimization Model to help find displaced LPTV new channels in the repacking, and the general agreement to push back and harmonize both the A-D and new digital construction permits. So a year ago we knew a lot already of what eventually was issued in the LPTV NPRM last fall. We also last fall found out what the auction Report and Order looked like, and a few groups filed Petitions for Reconsideration, which are still working their way through the FCC process. If any of the Coalitions' petitions are denied, it will give us, and others, status and ripeness to go the Court of Appeals. But that alone is not a strategy for waging a war in a
nine-dimensional battle space, which at times is taken right out of the House of Cards show.
We also during these 22 months have made engaged in battles with the Goggleplex and their unlicensed spectrum advocates, as well as the TV White Space users, the cable industry, and the potential auction bidders themselves. Some have questioned our taking on all of these groups at once. We simply did not have a choice in the matter. In order to defend the LPTV spectrum usage rights (hence our name), we needed to check and counter check any and all attempts to take the spectrum we will have left to homestead when we are displaced and need to move. But these battles have been good to wage since we now have found a lot of common ground, shared resources, dynamic new opportunities, and potential financial partners for our industry in them.
The trade press has also taken up our cause, and we now provide to them on a regular basis our research and positions on the issues, and they too have become advocates for us. Combined with the other groups in our advocacy space we regularly now are able to make the case for LPTV, and soon you will see this break out into the national press. And here is why...
The ROD, the HAMMER, and the FUNNEL
As regular readers and our members will know, the ROD (the LPTV Right of Displacement) is sacrosanct, and is enshrined with the 21 words of protection we have within the Incentive Auction Act. Simply put, the rights we had on Feb, 22, 2012 are not to be messed with by the FCC during the auction. Among many other rights is the right, when displaced, to go find a new channel assignment. Holds true for LPTV, LP, LD, TX, and construction permits. What it does NOT mean is that we get to replicate our contour or pop counts. But it gives us a ticket to go hunt for a new channel assignment. So, if you follow the logic to its natural conclusion, when you get displaced by the new national wireless band bidders, or by a displaced and moving primary, you have the right to go find a new channel. The FCC has signaled that they will help LPTV post auction do this, and use the same software which will be repacking the primaries.
Current rules allow a tower change, a city of license change, but not a DMA change unless specific conditions are met and waived. For our "rim-shot" members we are asking for the adjacent DMA moves if needed. So the ROD is POWERFUL...so much so that during the past year that we have wielded it, the unlicensed and TV White Space communities have become very nervous, and actually have pushed the FCC into a new rule making which is just going to be coming out, which will guarantee a "naturally occurring" channel in each market for unlicensed and wireless mic's. Duh, what does that mean? So once again, we will need to do battle within the FCC rule making for the spectrum we will need in the repack. But because of the ROD, we have limited the damage, a lot.
Next we learned that a simple 84-MHz clearing (51-38) was doable without much effort or cost at all, since literally 90% of that spectrum across the country is homesteaded by licensed LPTV, TX, and new CPs. So 90% of the 84-MHz clearing will be done on the backs of LPTV. But wait. We next found out that 60% of the clearing between 51-32 will be LPTV, TX, and our CPs. So again we find out that the Incentive Auction is really the LPTV Auction (que patriotic music). But finally we learned the truth, and THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE! Since the AWS-3 auctions yielded over $65 billion to the government, they now want to make sure the full 144-MHz clearing (51-27) happens, in all markets where it can. And the AWS auction also dispelled the notion that rural spectrum was not wanted - it is, a lot, and by many smaller and also well heeled players.
So what are we to do? First, encourage every last eligible Class-A and full power to enter the auction, whether they sell out, move the V's, or channel-share. The more that do that the more spectrum for us. Second, LET ALL WHO READ THIS KNOW, WE HAVE THE HAMMER! OUR RIGHT OF APPEAL IS LAW, AND WE WILL USE IT. IF WE DO, THIS AUCTION WILL BE GROUND TO A HALT FOR YET ANOTHER SIX MONTHS TO A YEAR. OUR CASES ARE RIPE, LEGALLY SOUND, AND REQUIRE A REMEDY WHICH CAN SCREW UP THE PROCESS.
SO THE VALUE OF THE HAMMER IS NOW $100 MILLION!!!
But wait, there's more...(que patriotic music, again). The FUNNEL, or more rightly put, the LPTV Funnel of Accommodation, is a series of small yes's which LPTV needs to get to the promised post-auction channel land. YES on no double building of outstanding CPs, and the blanket extension to the post-auction repack time frame of 39 months+. YES, to limitations to how the full power digital-to-digital repeater translator (DRTs) are approved and used in practice. YES, to digital channel-6 continued use of FM audio services. And now for the closing.. (que American flag), YES to REPACKING LPTV WITH OFDM-BASED ATSC 3.0!
It is essential that we can repack with the new standard, and it will be essential for the primaries also. We know directly from the ATSC that a new candidate standard for the transport layer will be coming out later this spring, and all that the FCC has to do is a simple rule making about it, and not for all of the bells and whistles the broadcast industry will want to use if for.
THIS IS REAL FOLKS!!! AND IT WILL HELP US REPACK MORE TIGHTLY, WITH POWER TO THE EDGE OF OUR CONTOURS, AND GIVE US ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE MORE THROUGHPUT. THIS IS A PROMISED LAND AND I HAVE SEEN IT.
Say yes to all of these, and the HAMMER will be put away. We can then go back to the 114th Congress, and ask for an amendment to the Digital Data Services Act which can give ALL LPTV technical flexibility on top of the OFDM-ATSC 3.0 transport layer. No waiting around for the primaries to get into the future. LPTV is ready when it repacks. (que the chorus of nay-sayers) BUT WHAT ABOUT RELOCATION FUNDING? LPTV DOES NOT QUALIFY FOR IT! More about that plan in future editions....hint,
WHAT WE PRACTICE
Realpolitik (from German: real "realistic", "practical", or "actual"; and Politik "politics", German pronunciation: [?e?a?lpoli?t?k]) is politics or diplomacy based primarily on power and on practical and material factors and considerations, rather than explicit ideological notions or moral or ethical premises.
No matter if you are an LPTV license, a TV translator tax district, Class-A, primary full power network affiliation, a religious broadcaster, an ethnic broadcaster, a content network with LPTV affiliates, an equipment manufacturer, consulting engineer, or member of the FCBA...
COLLABORATING RESEARCH PARTNER