Business and Deals

Reid Bill Would Let FCC Repack TV's At Will

Debt-reduction proposal contains incentive auction authority, relocation payments, but lacks protections for coverage area or signals 7/25/2011 11:13:39 PM Eastern

The Democratic debt-reduction bill being shopped by Senate Minority leader Harry Reid Monday allows the FCC to repack TV stations at will. The bill authorizes the FCC to compensate broadcasters for giving up spectrum for wireless broadband, but does not contain language directing the FCC to replicate their coverage areas or interference protections.

That likely wasn't what National Association of Broadcasters President Gordon Smith had in mind when he said he did not oppose making spectrum auctions a part of debt-reduction legislation so long as they got the policy right.

According to a copy of the bill, "if the Commission determines that it is in the public interest to modify the spectrum usage rights of any incumbent licensee in order to facilitate the assignment of such new initial licenses subject to new service rules, or the designation of spectrum for an unlicensed use, the Commission may disburse to such licensee a portion of the auction proceeds for the purpose of relocating to any alternative frequency or location that the Commission may designate."

Broadcasters are looking for compensation, but also for protections for their coverage areas and from the dislocations of massive channel changes.

The bill does cover "reasonable" relocation costs, as well as any costs incurred by cable and other MVPD operators for new equipment or construction related to carriage of relocated broadcast stations.

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