NAB Warns FCC Not to Push Broadcasters Into Auction

Kaplan tells Congress that FCC's mandate is to test, not assume, claim that spectrum is more valuable in wireless hands

National Association of Broadcasters executive VP Rick Kaplan told Congress on Monday the FCC should make it easy for broadcasters to take part in the spectrum auction but not force them.

"The Commission’s directive is not to push broadcasters to participate in the auction; but rather, to make it as easy as possible for them to participate if the economics make sense," according to Kaplan's written testimony.

Kaplan, who is testifying at the Dec. 10 Senate Commerce Committee an incentive auction oversight hearing, says that the authors of the National Broadband Plan assumed spectrum would be more valuable in the hands of wireless companies than with broadcasters. If the auction is truly market-based, he suggests, the FCC's goal is to test that theory, not assume its truth and "twist its authority to try to force broadcasters off the air," as some have encouraged it to do.

Kaplan also warns against "decimating" an industry that accounts for more than a million jobs, as well as the only communications service with a statutory public interest obligation.

To that end, Kaplan suggested the FCC take a cue from NAB and the Department of Defense agreement to share broadcast auxiliary spectrum used for electronic newsgathering. "the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), should take a page from that book, and proactively and constructively engage with an eye towards fostering consensus among the stakeholders wherever possible, and to base their positions and decisions, respectively, on facts and not merely desired outcomes."

Kaplan also says the FCC must make "all reasonable efforts" to preserve coverage areas and interference protections for auction non-participants. While viewers may lose "a favorite station or link" becuase a station has given up spectrum, but should not "should not lose access to channels that remain on the air as a result of an untested, sub-optimal repacking software and band plan."