COULD LPTV BE THE DECIDING FACTOR
WHEN ATSC 3.0 IS IMPLEMENTED? YES!
Oh here he goes again, making these bold outrageous statements about the importance of LPTV, those pesky 8000 licenses and permits which are "second class" broadcasters. Well folks, you can bank on this one. In March, the Coalition had a meeting with the Incentive Auction Task Force, to discuss among other items, the concept of harmonizing the post-auction channel repack with the implementation of ATSC 3.0. We directly and specifically asked the Task Force and the Chief of the Media Bureau about the possibility of 3.0 being ready in time. And of course they said that it all depended on when the ATSC Committee presented to the FCC the candidate standard. We then asked if just the "transport layer" of the standard could be approved first. Why? The Coalition had done a lot of research on how the new standard, which is OFDM-based, could assist LPTV to literally sculpt itself into new channels, which the current standard does not let us do nearly as well as it could. For LPTV this could be essential in a highly reduced TV band if the FCC is successful clearing in the auction a lot of spectrum.
But here is the kicker. We were told, in no uncertain terms, that the FCC does not want to just approve the "transport layer", and that they want to rule on the entire new standard. We further learned that even if the FCC rule making was fast-tracked, which to them means a short one year process, that this could not coordinate with the post-auction repack, if that meant slowing down the auction process.
What we heard last week at the ATSC meeting is that their members think they can actually get all of the various component parts ready for the FCC by the end of 2015. Which of course means Q1-2016. So a fast-tracked one year process means and early 2017 approval, assuming of course the process just moves along without any objections. But if the auction actually happens in early 2016, then the timing is all off to repack with 3.0. Kind of out of sync by 9 months to a year.
Congress could require the FCC to coordinate the process of the repack and the implementation of 3.0, but that would mean slowing down the auction freight train which is barreling down the tracks to an early 2016 opening. And no one, and we mean no one, wants the auction slowed down. Except of course LPTV, and our industry really only wants relocation funding, a path to permanent status, throw in a little MVPD retrans and must carry, maybe make some more of us auction eligible, and of course those wealth-enabling spectrum clearing tax credits. We agree with everyone else that an auction, duly legislated by Congress, as an act of the will of the people, should occur - yeah, right. But since our 400+ Class-A cousins will hopefully get the $65 to $6 billion payday, we want them to. Tirckle down economics, you got to love it.
So here is the deal.
If the LPTV industry does not get any accommodations from the FCC or Congress asap, we will simply help the country and the entire broadcast television industry, and the consumer electronics industry, and go to court to challenge the auction, demand relocation funding, and literally do whatever we have to so that we can help our industry. If we can slow the auction down by nine months to a year, then 3.0 will have the time it needs to catch up to the auction repacking schedule, and voila, LPTV becomes the savior of the industry. Que the patriotic music, and roll the flags blowing in the wind.
Too weird a solution for you? Don't think we can do it? Got a better idea? If the FCC won't do it, and Congress won't either, and the sellers and buyers won't do it, then I guess we second class owners will just have to step up and do it. You see, everyone else might not want to help us, but we will help them, help us, help them...
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