July 24, 2014


This is a commentary of the Hearing which took place today regarding the House "LPTV Preservation Act of 2014" sponsored by Congressman Barton of Texas.  We are providing this so that the LPTV community and supporting industry can understand what we think the introduction of this bill at this time is all about.





Directors Note:  Member broadcasters of our Coalition have in recent days been threatened with loss of business because they are publicly listed on our website as supporters of the Coalition.  This is unacceptable, but we understand the reaction. The truth, or the truth as we are reporting it, can hurt, upset, and cause individuals and powerful institutional representatives to get really upset to the point of implied economic warfare.  Whatever follows is not intended for that purpose.  

Consider the rest of this document from me directly and not the Coalition.  Lay off the LPTV broadcasters who are allowing their names and call-signs to be shown on the website in a public act of solidarity. They are fighting for their very business survival due to irresponsible legislation backed by powerful corporate interests.  I may not each of them to cleat what is written below,but they have been trusting to tell it like I see it.


The LPTV industry is faced with a very uncertain future, even though many parts of it are doing well, are profitable, and rapidly growing.  But the marketplace is rigged against them, and yet they continue on each day providing their viewers and communities with quality programming from over 200+ unique networks and local content.  They are LPTV!
For instance, the auction eligible Class-A market has seen a great deal of transactions and wealth generation since the incentive spectrum auction act was passed. The major market time brokerage stations are stable and mostly cash flowing to the positive. Many of the channel-6 stations being used for an 87.7 radio channel are booming, with many new construction permits issued.  Many of the faith-based and ethnic programming networks airing on LPTV stations are growing and also are licensed spectrum holders.  And there is a renaissance in the TV translator industry in the western states with many new digital sub-channels giving rise to a considerable amount of new and planned community-based local channels.  And literally hundreds of millions of dollars of new flexible use transmission system stations are being planned and have construction permits, and await rule making to begin building so that they can go into service in support of the National Broadband Plan.


But the uncertainty of the long drawn out spectrum auction rule making process has ruined many an LPTV licensee business plan, made a bank loan hard to obtain, and created a cascading effect from licensee to tower company to equipment manufacturer, to programming network, and finally down to the local advertiser with less outlets to use.  There are over 2000 pending construction permits on hold from investment due to the uncertainty of the auction process. And there are still about 1000 remaining analog to digital conversions yet to do.  For the construction permits the FCC has signaled and has LPTV rule making comment periods this summer and fall which will look for a possibly long extension period so that the full power channel relocations are not held up by 1000;s of LPTV being forced to build out in the middle of the auction and repacking process.


We agree with Harold Feld and Congresswoman Eshoo that if the auction process has to now pivot, and deal with yet another newly introduced factor of a meddling Congress, then all parties will be harmed.  LPTV will be harmed considerably with yet another delay in deploying both nexgen flexible use transmission standards, and the completion of the individual business and investment cycles we each have, including those 3000+ construction permits.


The only request of Congress we have is for the 113th Congress to right the wrong which the 112th Congress enacted, which was to not have properly studied the impacts of the auction on LPTV and TV translators.  Both senior legal counsel are operating under a faulty legal doctrine that LPTV are secondary to everyone else - this is wrong, dangerous to the free market - and will be challenged in court by the LPTV industry. 
What LPTV needs is the same as any other business sector, less regulation, more freedom to innovate, and a level playing field among competitors.  What is called a "free market".  This does not now exist in American television broadcasting.  The full power primary broadcasters have a rigged marketplace of special privileges which purposely exclude LPTV.  And the incentive spectrum auction makes it even worse. But with over 30 months of intense business planning and strategy development, LPTV is ready, willing, and now capable of entering into its; own rule making within the structure of the FCC process.




House hearing for Congressman Barton's "LPTV & TRANSLATOR PRESERVATION ACT OF 2014" attempts to shift the blame to the FCC for the potential damages the 112th Congress did by not making LPTV eligible for the Incentive Spectrum Auction - Both parties play patronage politics with LPTV industry's problems they helped to create In 2012.

Link to the relevant House Subcommittee documents and testimony:  Hearing Information

  • Full-powered funded TV group, claiming to represent the LPTV industry, refuses to publicly list its members, and uses this as a shield to attack the FCC, but not be accountable for it.  They provided a witness, who has never been an LPTV licensee, and has always worked for the full power television industry. He claims the LPTV industry will lose significant number of licenses in the incentive spectrum auction, and then blames the FCC for following the very law the 112th Congress passed, which included the majority of members of this very Subcommittee!
  • Often quoted public interest group lobbyst, with direct ties to the Google-plex and Silicon Valley, and who wants LPTV spectrum for free to use for private gain, pleads not to add any new legislative directive to the FCC during the so far 30+ month rule making process for the incentive spectrum auction.  They claim, and our Coalition agrees, that by doing so, it would introduce entirely new dynamics into an already difficult process of balancing the needs of broadcasters, the wireless bidders, the LPTV licensees, and the unlicensed spectrum and TV white space users, which are all fighting to get as much spectrum allocated to their needs.

Mike Gravino, Director of the LPTV SPECTRUM RIGHTS COALITION, who represents the largest pure LPTV industry organization (150+ licensees and more than 950 stations and permits in most all 50 states and the territories), was prevented from participating in the drafting of the bill, and could not testify for either the majority or minority said:

"The spectacle we saw today in this Hearing, having a witness who is funded by the full power broadcast industry, and is from an organization which does not disclose how many LPTV members it has, creates for the LPTV industry a very bad taste and raw emotions.  Then, to erroneously attempt to blame the FCC for how the Incentive Spectrum Act legislation was written, and to do it while the LPTV industry is facing a collective $1 billion unfunded mandate for channel relocations, creates real and direct harm for these small and diverse businesses. Never mind that this is the very Subcommittee which was one of the birth places and points of approval for the Incentive Spectrum Auction Act which has put LPTV into the box that it is."


"The LPTV Spectrum Rights Coalition is committed to working within the FCC rule making process as a stakeholder representing the interests of the diverse 1800+ LPTV and TV translator licensees, which are operating and building out permits for over 10,000 community stations across the country, and within the territories.  The FCC has already provided, with the assistance of the Coalition, an important and historic information sharing session at the industry trade show this past April, and we hope to work with the FCC's Auction Task Force and Media Bureau again this fall and winter to make sure the LPTV community is fully engaged and educated about how the auction and subsequent channel repacking will take place."


Gravino went on to say:


"Mr. Libin was just not in command of the facts and figures of the LPTV industry.  This may for some create the impression that we are not organized as an industry and need the help of the very organization (NAB) and institution (Congress) which prevented LPTV from full participation in the auction, and which rigs the broadcast marketplace.  Have no doubt about it, our Coalition will stand up for all of LPTV to become auction eligible, for no station and construction permit to be denied a channel, for all built channels which are displaced to be provided relocation costs, and for a path to a flexible transmission future, not after the NAB members, but before.  LPTV has always been the innovator in this industry, we have that in our DNA, and in our promulgated rules and regulations."


"Both the witnesses and the members of Congress failed to speak to the most important issue facing LPTV, the $1 billion unfunded mandate which Congress gave to LPTV.

No one in the 112th Congress stood up with a UMRA (Unfunded Mandate Regulatory Act) point of order to stop it.  And the FCC claims that it is not bound by it as an independent agency. No CBO study was ever done on either the benefits of including LPTV in the auction, nor the costs and impacts on the industry.  Our Coalition demands that this be done now, and we will not stop until we have asked every member of the 113th Congress to do so.  However, we will not work with this Subcommittee at this time as it is infected by the wireless industry and full power broadcasters which are playing patronage politics with LPTV.  We will take our plight and fight against this unfunded mandate to the Senate."


"Let's be clear and precise.  LPTV, in the Incentive Spectrum Auction Act of 2012, was afforded the best possible protections it could negotiate, the enshrinement of its' then existing spectrum usage rights.  The key provision, which Chairman Walden inserted in the 2012 language, and traded with Congresswoman Eshoo for the unlicensed spectrum usage provisions in the Act, are the untold story in this drama.  For LPTV, what this means, is that the FCC is currently prevented from a wholesale taking of LPTV spectrum, and it is called the "Right of Displacement".  


The Right of Displacement - the LPTV trump card?


What this simply and powerfully says is that an LPTV licensee has the right to find another channel if it is displaced by a primary spectrum user. In addition, the FCC has already signal in public commentary that it will allow for city of license changes, but is resisting DMA market changes.  We hope to get this clarified when further analysis is made.  Also, the FCC has signaled that it will consider expanding the 2012 channel sharing rules so that all of LPTV may be used for channels which are currently airing on primary auction eligible stations. This simple change could in fact create a huge time brokerage opportunity for LPTV stations, help the PBS stations and Big Bird find channel capacity were they have lost affiliates, and most importantly for the auction itself, encourage stations to participate since they could continue airing in the market with must carry and retrans rights , and get a partial payday in the auction. Staff of the majority and the minority counsel were made aware of this, but both chose to send to bat in the hearing their patronage-backed partisan witnesses.  


LPTV problems were neither properly framed, nor solutions 

successfully addressed nor sought.


For the past 30+ months our industry has used the Right of Displacement as the only clear mechanism we have to keep the interpretative powers of the FCC in check, and they are now in agreement with us about it.  Mr. Libin failed to both understand this point and acknowledge it, and we know why.  He is beholden to his full power broadcasting backers which have publicly stated they want the auction to fail.  And he is willing to blame the FCC for what Congress passed as legislation, and the President signed.  


Members of Congress need to stop playing politics with the fate of the LPTV industry, and start crafting real solutions for its future, They need to immediately request a study on the impact of the auction on LPTV from 

the GAO, as was done during the DTV transition."



The Coalition will hold a series of webinars in August to write our own LPTV bill and do it collaboratively with any and all LPTV licensees and industry partners.  This entire process will be done in the sunshine and open for all to see.  We will craft it to be introduced in the Senate, as this House Subcommittee is fatality infected by wireless advocates and partisan politics.  We will contact you about how to participate and follow what is being done.  No partisan political private deals here. Stay tuned!



LPTV Spectrum Rights Coalition
Mike Gravino - Director
(202) 604-0747

"I must be missing something.  
I can't see how this bill helps LPTV is any way at all!"
one of the the top LPTV attorneys




Mike Gravino has been a tireless advocate for the interest of LPTV 
station owners and the industry.  However, as is the case with many 
such advocates, his methods can be confrontational and polarizing.  
These tactics are frequently necessary because the interests of LPTVs have been largely ignored by the FCC under Chairman Wheeler and Chairman Genachowski before him" (full quote in TBVR 7/22)
Francisco Montero, Managing Partner, Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, P.L.C.