FCC's Martin Takes Flying J Toward Exit

Outgoing FCC chairman circulates item in favor of allowing truck-stop TV serivce to share spectrum with broadcasters

Posted at 9:00 PM ET, Jan. 16, 2009

Related: Kevin Martin - The Exit Interview

According to sources, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin circulated an item for a vote by the other commissioners late Friday, his last working day at the commission, that would have reversed an earlier Media Bureau decision and allowed a truck stop TV service to share, and potentially interfere with, the spectrum used by broadcasters for electronic newsgathering.

Clarity Media (Flying J Truck Stops) has for several years been trying to get waivers to allow it to operate a low-power multichannel digital TV service at a number of its truck plazas using the cable TV relay service spectrum band, which is used by broadcasters extensively for electronic newsgathering.

Flying J wants to be able to relay satellite TV to the sets in the cabs of trucks parked for a break or the night--most have overnight cabs with many of the comforts of home, including TV.

The Association of Maximum Service Television (MSTV) has argued that the proposal represented potential interference to newsgathering, saying that if there is an emergency, say a big traffic accident, the trucker TV service could prevent the news from getting back to the station if the truck stop were between the story and the station.

The FCC's Media Bureau agreed. In May 2007, it denied Clarity's request to operate the system, because, among other things, Clarity had not demonstrated that the service would not cause harmful interference to newsgathering.

Trying to get a vote on Flying J item would seem at cross purposes with a directive from top Democratic legislators that Martin confine the FCC's business in the waning days to DTV-related issues and ones with statutory deadlines--like the analog nightlight implementation guidelines that the commission approved Jan. 15, which filled both of those requirements since Congress had set a Jan. 15 deadline.

The circulation of that item seemed more a parting gesture than a serious effort, however, since other commissioners were on travel, and would have been unlikely to support it anyway given the advice from Congress.

A spokesman for Martin was not available at press time.