NRB: Spectrum Reclamation Could Be 'Unholy Sacrifice'

Hopes the FCC is looking into every avenue from which potential spectrum may come

Add the National Religious Broadcasters to those concerned about a government grab for broadcast spectrum.

In a release Wednesday, NRB VP of government relations Bob Powers, minced no words saying broadcast spectrum "may become an unholy saacrifice to satisfy new mobile device spectrum needs."

He said broadcasters had already given up an "enormous amount" of spectrum in the switch to digital, adding that he hoped the FCC was looking at "every avenue from which potential spectrum may come."

The FCC is talking to various stakeholders, including government users, but has been talking to broadcasters and their private equity partners about possible scenarious for compensating broadcasters for giving up some of their spectrum for mobile broadband.

He said that typical of the objections of NRB was one nonprofit station that raised over $1 million from viewers by telling them digital was better than analog because they could get HD or multicast channels.

"Now, less than 150 days since the June 12, 2009 switch to digital, after encouraging people to buy converter boxes, buy new HD TV sets, and purchase in many cases a new antenna, there are people that want to take away [our station’s] ability to provide a local and diverse voice in our region," said NRB.

Powers also said that while the 'alternate plans' for spectrum he has seen have some kind of protections for the major networks, he hasn't seen the same for religious broadcasters. One of the FCC proposals, according to a source, would include collapsing the four major network affiliates in each market into four multicast standard-definition channels, with HD versions available via cable, satellite or telco.

According to broadcasters familiar with discussions with FCC broadband advisor Blair Levin, the FCC is still in the conversation stage, with a range of alternatives in the mix.

Levin told B&C last week that, "it is very clear in the record that for America to be successful in mobile broadband, we're going to need more spectrum in the near term. Not tomorrow, but within a few years. Given the amount of time it takes to clear spectrum, part of the broadband plan has to have a plan for getting more spectrum. The second point is we are talking to everybody. And we are welcoming any ideas about where to get that spectrum and what's the right way to proceed.”