FCC has 3 fixes for auction catch-22


The Federal Communications Commission proposed three options for removing a
roadblock to the auction of more than 500 radio licenses.

At issue is a July court decision that bars the government from requiring
noncommercial broadcasters to bid for the commercial licenses the government now
requires to be auctioned.

To get around the dilemma, the FCC proposed:

\u0007 Barring noncommercials from holding licenses on commercial portions of the

\u0007 Permitting public broadcasters to obtain commercial frequencies only when
there are no competing commercial applicants; or

\u0007 Providing opportunities to add new noncommercial FM and TV channels on a
community-by-community basis.

Regardless of which is picked, the FCC could find itself defending
broadcast-auction rules in court again. Depending on which way the commission
goes, either National Public Radio or commercial operators are likely to fight

The FCC also is asking Congress to fix the contradictory auction statute at
the heart of the problem, but there's no guarantee that lawmakers can agree,
given the lobbying prowess of both NPR and the National Association of

'We've had plenty of discussions with Congress, but this is too important to
just wait and see what happens,' FCC chairman Michael Powell said.

He blamed the judges for a decision he said clearly contradicts any logical
reading of congressional intent because it would give public broadcasters power
to claim any new allotment free-of-charge.

Resolving the issue is also needed before the FCC can conduct auctions for
any new TV allotments.

FCC auction rules issued in 2000 required public broadcasters to bid for
commercial allotments like anyone else, but a federal appeals court found that
literal interpretation of the 1997 law establishing auctions forbids the FCC
from making noncommercial entities bid.