1270 Days Since The Incentive Auction legislation was passed 
222 Days Until The FCC Says Auction Starts

Congressman Walden photo courtesy of theDove

Walden Warns LPTV Stakeholders
Of 'Big Battle' Over Spectrum

On August 5th, 2015, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Energy & Communications, Congressman Greg Walden of Oregon (R), had a meeting in Medford, Oregon with LPTV licensees from throughout Oregon. His Subcommittee is one of the key Congressional committees with oversight of the FCC and any new legislation for LPTV and TV translators. The text which follows in from the Communications Daily "Gin It Up" article which was published last week. The meeting was hosted by theDove, an award winning LPTV and radio group in Medford, Oregon. Our Coalition provided research and materials support for the event.
A House Republican warned low-power TV (LPTV) broadcasters and translators that other "powerful" forces are seeking their spectrum and will exert intense lobbying power in Washington to acquire it. House Communications Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., listened to multiple stakeholders outlining anxieties about the FCC's broadcast TV incentive auction, in a discussion lasting more than an hour in his home district.

"You had Google, Facebook, Apple, AT&T, Verizon, every telecommunications company, all these software companies, they are all after your (LPTV) spectrum," said Walden...

...a former radio broadcaster, during an Aug. 5 engineering forum hosted by theDove TV, which posted video of the forum last week. "I'm not throwing a rock at them, I'm just telling you the reality. And they come to the table in Washington with an enormous firepower. And broadcasters are broadcasters. You've got the NAB, that does a great job, and the [National Religious Broadcasters] NRB, that does a great job. ... It's a big battle right now over spectrum."  " The Internet of Things is coming to a place near you, and they need spectrum, and you've got it," W alden adviser Ray Baum, a former Oregon public utility commissioner also attending the forum, told attendees.
"This is the time to really gin it up" and "turn the heat up" at the FCC and before members of Congress, Walden advised.

Both Walden and Baum emphasized the importance of the 39-month period for LPTV and translators to vacate their channels following the auction if they would need to. "That was a bigger victory than you might think," Baum remarked. "This 39-month period is really critical, and actually every day is right now because people are starting to harden in," Walden said. 

"There's a majority on the commission that is probably more pro-unlicensed rather than not and may even be somewhat dismissive of LPTV and the role it plays, and of translators."

NRB President Jerry Johnson (above) appealed to Walden and read from one of his group's recent resolutions asking the FCC "not to auction religious TV off the air," as he put it. "It's just incredible, it's like losing a family business, a farm," Johnson said of the prospect. "Unthinkable, actually, that this could go away. I think the main principle is it's wrong to give the unlicensed preference over those who are licensed, invested." He worried over language about the FCC protecting LPTV stakeholders "to the extent possible" and cautioned that he believes the agency "is going to blow that door wide open" in taking advantage of the language.

Perry Atkinson, station manager at KDOV-TV Medford, Oregon, warned of the "incredible land grab" by the FCC in the auction. "We've done nothing wrong to have our licenses revoked," Atkinson said, listing the members ofthe community that have contributed to KDOV's operations.

"To lose our license now would be devastating. How can I in good conscience continue to improve our television station when the [return on investment] could be zero? How can I go before our audience and ask for support knowing the station could go away? This is a violation of public trust in the highest order, a violation of our moral and ethical code, and destroys our integrity in the marketplace."

Walden recommended the audience consider the ATSC 3.0 next-generation broadcast standard: "If I were in your shoes, I'd be looking at [it] very hard going forward," he said, suggesting the technology could allow these stakeholders to "create a digital stream" and become like a wireless company with  4D video capabilities."That pressure's not going to be gone once this auction is gone," Walden warned. 

"They're going to double down  and want more spectrum. And that's what I lay out here, I'd be looking at ATSC-3 ...if you can figure out a technology that works, all of a sudden you're a competitor to the wireless companies. The original wireless comes back with a vengeance." 
  • Walden repeatedly referred to his FCC oversight hearing July 28, where he asked FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler about the auction, and Wheeler affirmed that the agency would help find homes for those that were displaced (see 1507280040). 
  • Walden also cited a letter outlining concerns that he wrote with Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, who has joined with Walden on this issue in the past (see 1508050018). 
  • Walden also repeatedly insisted that the 2012 Spectrum Act authorizing the incentive auction was very intentionally not meant to prioritize unlicensed ahead of licensed spectrum.






"We had a big fight over that," Walden said, saying FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel was then one of the key Democratic Senate staffers negotiating the legislation. "They were very much pushing unlicensed spectrum. On our side, we were very much pushing back against that." 

Rosenworcel now "is very much pushing for an unlicensed channel," Walden said. Baum agreed Rosenworcel "wants a designated channel in the gap between a couple full-power stations" in various markets, calling this "common knowledge."   

The allies to LPTV and translators are the mobile broadband providers, though for different reasons, Baum said. Walden and Baum emphasized their problems with the FCC's plans to relocate to the duplex gap and said the FCC is relying on its public interest standard to, in their view, contradict the intent of the authorizing legislation.

"Somebody could file suit," 

Walden acknowledged, considering possible objections from NAB or the NRB. He said the FCC is relying on public interest and the law doesn't favor unlicensed over licensed:
"You have a conflict. 
So it may end up in court." 

Walden reassured the crowd that this scenario wouldn't threaten the stakeholders beyond the incentive auction and said Congress gave the FCC one-time auction authority in this case. He expressed optimism about the auction participation, citing the more than $40 billion raised from last year's AWS-3 auction. "I would argue this is even more valuable spectrum, and I think the bidders will be there," Walden said of the incentive auction.

Walden was hesitant to say legislation was necessary and pointed to the intense grassroots energy required. 

"I don't want to overpromise here," Walden said, anticipating what he suspected would be a "fierce argument from other lawmakers that LPTV and translators have secondary importance."

He's open to considering the implications of legislation after the auction that would allow upgrades to Class-A stations but doesn't know the implications yet, he said. The high-tech community "can't get enough spectrum" and would devote its resources to "working everybody against you."

"There is a push that says [broadcasters] just need to go away. That spectrum has a higher value for other purpose[s] than broadcast. Because you can get video over the Internet. I'm not an advocate of that, I don't agree with that."

for Communications Daily by  Jonathan  Hede
Article Reprinted with permission of Warren Communications News Inc.
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Do not further redistribute without permission from Warren.


Other trade press coverage of this event:



The FCC last week conducted a Channel Sharing webinar.  Click above or here for the slides from the event.  Trade press articles about the event follow...





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Mike Gravino,  Director
LPTV Spectrum Rights Coalition