Walden Vows Vibrant Broadcasting

Pledges vigorous oversight of the FCC's incentive auctions

House Communications Subcommittee
chairman Greg Walden has pledged
vigorous oversight of the FCC’s incentive
auctions, and last week he made it
clear that will include ensuring the FCC
treats broadcasters fairly according to
the incentive auction legislation Walden
helped craft.

Speaking at the opening session of
NAB Show in Las Vegas, the Oregon
Republican and former broadcaster said
that the auctions are “strictly voluntary”
[although the repacking of stations isn’t].

Walden said that the incentive auctions
give broadcasters who want to sell
a new option, including investing the
proceeds of the sale into other stations.
But for those who don’t take the buyout:
“I intend to ensure that the Commission
properly implements the provisions of
the Act to preserve a vibrant post-auction
broadcast environment,” he said.

Walden said that includes making
sure the government mitigates border
interference, reimburses broadcasters for
relocation, and that the FCC does not give
away spectrum after it collects it. Walden
is concerned about the FCC setting aside
too much spectrum for unlicensed use,
which will reduce the amount that can be
re-auctioned for licensed wireless.

The congressman raised specter of retransmission
consent reform,
or at least its discussion, as
part of the reauthorization of
STELA, which is the law that
allows satellite operators to
deliver distant network signals
into local markets via a compulsory
license. Broadcasters
are not looking for a wideranging
discussion of attendant issues as
part of that re-authorization, but Walden
suggested one might be coming—if not in
STELA, then somewhere else.

“As we go forward, I am open to an
examination of the larger video marketplace
and asking some difficult questions,”
Walden said. “While
I’m not yet convinced retransmission
consent needs
reforming, we must begin a
discussion on other issues in
light of competition and the
rise of Internet video.”

The FCC is currently seeking
input on the definition of
a multichannel video provider and whether
those rights and responsibilities should
attach to over-the-top video. Walden said
the FCC is in need of reforming, saying
lately it had spent more time trying to
expand its authority than working with
Congress to improve the process.