Broadcasters Head to FCC

Source: Fly-in expanded to add regulator stop to agenda 2/22/2016 02:35:00 PM Eastern

TV station operators plan to hit the FCC this week—as in visit, though they might want to get in a few shots—when they convene for the National Association of Broadcasters annual Washington fly-in.

Historically the fly-in (officially NAB's State Leadership Conference) is focused on taking to the Hill to talk up key issues with Congressfolk, which they will be doing per usual. But according to a source familiar with the plans, NAB has extended the visits by a day so those broadcasters can also pay a call on the FCC to talk about some key topics surrounding the upcoming broadcast incentive auction.

Top of mind are the FCC's timetable for transitioning to new channels after the auction—the FCC has set a hard deadline of 39 months, a deadline NAB says should not be set until the FCC knows how many stations will be moving. They are also concerned about the FCC's proposal to reserve vacant channels after the auction repack for unlicensed.

NAB president Gordon Smith talked about both of those in a speech to noncommercial broadcasters, which are holding their own Washington summit this week as well.

NAB also argued that the $1.75 billion Congress set aside to reimburse broadcasters (and some cable operator) moving expenses associated with the repack is not enough. That will be one of the messages to the FCC. But since the commission did not agree to make that $1.75 billion a budget (clearing no more spectrum than it can compensate broadcasters for clearing), as broadcasters had asked, they will be taking that message to the Hill as well.

The communications between broadcasters and Washington won't be all one-way.

Set to speak to the group before they fan out will be Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and FCC commissioner Michael O'Rielly.

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