Rep. Greg Walden, chair of the House Communications
Subcommittee, promised Monday to make sure the FCC treats broadcasters fairly
in the incentive auctions.
The Oregon Republican and former broadcaster was speaking to
the National Broadcasters Association convention in Las Vegas, where he talked
about the incentive auctions -- he was instrumental in the legislation that
established them -- the 2014 expiration of the Satellite Television Extension
and Localism Act (STELA) and FCC process reform, which he backed in the last
"The decision by a full-power broadcaster to relinquish
spectrum is strictly voluntary," Walden said, "and the ability to
share spectrum through multicasting may allow stations to generate substantial
revenue by shedding only some spectrum while remaining on the air."
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. "I intend to ensure that the Commission properly
implements the provisions of the Act to preserve a vibrant post-auction
broadcast environment," he said.
He 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.
Walden did not weigh in on broadcasters concerns about the
FCC's band plan for repacking stations with co-existing wireless licensees, but
he did cite broadcasters joint filing with wireless companies, who also have
concerns about the band plan. "I think you have many reasons to work
together to make this auction successful, as can be seen in your recent collaboration
regarding potential band plans," he said.
Walden raised 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
wide-ranging discussion of attendant issues as part of that re-authorization,
but Walden suggested one might be coming, if not in STELA, then somewhere else.
"[R]ules surrounding regulation of broadcasters and satellite television
providers are some of the most arcane areas of law," he said.
"[A]s we go forward I am open to an examination of the
larger video marketplace and asking some difficult questions," he 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." He did not pin himself to a particular position.
"The central questions we should be asking are, first, can we better
ensure television viewers have access to the broadcast programming they want
while respecting the rights of stations that transmit it over the air, the
networks that create it, and the cable, satellite and broadband companies that
deliver it? And second, does doing so require more or less government
The FCC is currently seeking input on the definition of
multichannel video provider and whether those rights and responsibilities
should attack to over-the-top video.
Walden said the FCC was in need of reforming, saying lately
it had spent more time trying to expand its authority than working with
Congress to improve the process.
"It's not asking too much to have the FCC actually
codify a set of best practices and operate by them," he wrote, referring
to process reform legislation he and other Republicans backed in the last
Congress, including putting a shot clock on FCC decisions and applying a
cost-benefit analysis to new regs.
Walden did give FCC chairman Julius Genachowski
credit for publishing more specific rules texts, requiring more details in ex
parte submissions, and releasing orders sooner after adoption, he said there
was more that needed to be done and no guaranteed Genachowski's changes would
not be rolled back by the next chairman. Genachowski will be exiting in the next