WHY DOES THE FCC CHAIRMAN
REFUSE TO MEET WITH US?
FCC Chairman Wheeler attempts to come off as a tough, no nonsense, take no prisoners, my way or the highway type of autocratic manager. But as evidenced by his lack of respect for the Republican Commissioners, and his refusal to meet with the LPTV industry, this commentator wants to know his reasoning why he will not grant us 30 minutes to discuss our industry? Is he scared of us? Are we not worthy of his time? Are we too unwashed, smell, or are too lowly in class? Five times we have asked, and five times we have been turned down.
He won't let the Republican Commissioners have adequate input into the FCC processes, and he won't make time to meet with the single largest participant in the Incentive Auction - LPTV. Since 90% of the spectrum between channels 51-38 is now either licensed or permitted for new construction by LPTV and TV Translators, our industry is the single largest contributor to the success of the auction, and the tens of billions of dollars the government will make from displacing us for free, and at a cost to us, and then selling the spectrum. That's right, take the least economically capable and make them pay for their own displacement moves.
So scared he is to meet with us, or give us the opportunity to comment and discuss our issues with him directly, that he has now engineered a legal tactic so that all of the Commissioners and staff are prohibited from talking about the strategy he intends to use to do a taking of LPTV spectrum rights. Which is totally contrary to the explicit Congressional intent of the authorizing legislation of the Incentive Auction.
How? Since the beginning of February, Chairman Wheeler has kept on circulation with the Commissioners, an OET and Media Bureau recommendation for an, "Amendment of Parts 15, 73 and 74 of the Commission's Rules to Provide for the Preservation of One Vacant Channel in the UHF Television Band For Use By Wireless Microphones and White Space Devices."
We originally thought that either this item was being held back from a vote because they could not get a majority, or that they wanted to spring it on us at the end of the process, so that we would not have time to adequately respond. But we learned yesterday the truth - and it is that the Chairman intends on using this illegal Amendment as a precedent to establish that the FCC can take any LPTV or TV translator channel, and convert it to unlicensed and TV white space use, at any time, for any reason it wants, beyond that of the Incentive Auction repacking.
His intent is now clear, and it is to start with one channel in every one of the 210 TV DMA, and then claim the FCC can do it for any and all LPTV and TV translator channels in any market. The strategy was laid out yesterday quite clearly by a senior member of his staff. A direct frontal assault on the LPTV and TV translator Right of DIsplacement. Make these operators secondary for everything, and make them the same as unlicensed. Disarm the Right of Displacement defense we have, which trumps much of what his illegal spectrum grab needs to destroy.
The Chairman wants to do this even though the enabling Incentive Auction legislation expressly prohibits the FCC from changing the LPTV and TV translator spectrum usage rights. This Chairman does not care, and is now gone rogue in the Incentive Auction process, as he has in most other issues. The only way to stop him and his staff from this unchecked power grab is either through the courts, or from Congress through new legislation to fix what is wrong with the Incentive Spectrum Auction implementation and final rules.
Congress needs to wake up and understand that the FCC has screwed things up big time with how the FCC is using its' discretionary powers to design the Incentive Auction. And it is time for Congress to act to draft new legislation to fix it, not stop it, but make it work for all parties, for all interest groups, and for the country. Otherwise Congress will be looking at a financial shortfall in budget years 2017, 2018, and 2019 from a failed or greatly delayed process. Congress can not just hope that it all works out, they need to take action - now.
The professional lobbyists and lawyers who conduct business with the FCC on behalf of clients all tell you to not make it personal, do not make personal attacks on officials, and stick to the facts. Yet when a senior FCC official, a lawyer, working directly for the Chairman, tells you that your license and the service you provide your community does not matter, and does not deserve to be compensated for, and should be taken, or displaced, and that you have no value and should be eliminated, and they do this full well knowing you represent hundreds of businesses and over a thousand licenses and permits - well, this is the time to ask why the Chairman will not meet to discuss this, or why he does not have the guts to say it to us himself.
I predict history will write about this Chairman, and the story will be one of failure. His failure will be, among many, to unsuccessfully implement the Incentive Auction. He and his staff are creating so many legal challenges to the process, and so many obstacles to carrying out a successful auction, that he will most likely not be around when it fails. (And just to be clear, we want the auction to be a success for the 400+ Class-A licensees which are eligible and will help fund a new resurgent LPTV industry after the auction.)
Some would say I should not write this way, or say these truths, since I will lose any influence or standing, or voice I have. Quite the opposite is what I believe. If no one stands up to the bully, then the bully gets his way, and continues to prey on the weak, and those too scared to speak up. The FCC should not be run like some vulture capital firm, this is an agency responsible to the people, the country. There is a reason the Communications Act mentions the public interest over 120 times, that is what this is all about. In the Incentive Auction process this Chairman is running, it is all about the special interests, and not those of small businesses, and the viewers and communities we serve. Shame on this Democratic Chairman and this Democratic Administration for not sticking up for the rights of the small business LPTV industry. They need to walk their talk about multi-cultural ownership in media. LPTV already has done it, and now they want to dismantle us without compensation, or even due consideration.
Go ahead Mr. Chairman and refuse to meet with us. Keep that Amendment of our rules secret so that we can not talk about it with the other Commissioners or staff. Continue to stifle the debate - so much for your net neutrality cause - who is throttling the discussion now?
You still think you work for the big companies you used to represent, or can swashbuckle your way through venture proposals, putting down the start-ups asking for funding to enable their dreams. That is not us sir. LPTV and TV translators have a long storied history serving America. You have forgotten you work for us, the licensees, the viewers, and the citizens who actually own the airwaves as a collective shared resource. We pay the FCC each year our fees, perform our public services, and we expect an FCC which respects our role as Federal spectrum licensees. We are not unlicensed - got that? We are licensed, and we have rights, which the intent of the 112th Congress was to protect.
You will be checked in the courts, and you will be directed by legislation to change. You are not long for this assignment I predict, and you will not win the day by ignoring us. Those of your staff which does not respect us will be haunted for the rest of their careers by the disrespect they are showing us, while those that have and continue to work with us honorably will be karmically rewarded. This is all because you do not offer respect to those you serve, and your reward will be failure. This is how you are acting towards us - so we are the mirror on the wall for you today, tomorrow, and for your legacy. Your mantra of "competition, competition, competition" is a joke. You can't handle the competition of alternative ideas to your own, especially those which are clearly more respectful of others.