While their amendment giving broadcasters more time and money to make the post-spectrum auction transition was ultimately not added to a mobile broadband spectrum bill that passed the Senate Commerce Committee Thursday, Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) were getting a shout out for "joining the fight to protect broadcast viewers."
That came from Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), ranking member of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, who in January drafted his own consumer-focused bill that would create an emergency fund of $1 billion to make sure stations did not go dark and provide some flexibility in the repack timetable—now 39 months.
Pallone also praised Thune for committing to work to protect broadcast viewers. While the amendment was tabled, he saw the silver lining in those senators' support, and signaled he hoped that would translate in support for his bill.
“I drafted the Viewer Protection Act to ensure that nobody’s televisions go dark as a result of the repacking," he said. "People rely on broadcast television during emergencies like Superstorm Sandy that can happen at any time, and we must act to prevent anyone from losing access to this essential information. I appreciate the Senate Commerce Committee’s commitment to working on this issue, and I look forward to working with my colleagues across the aisle and across the Hill to pass this bill.”
Pallone has clearly framed his bill as being about helping broadcast viewers, rather than broadcasters, but the latter, at least the ones planning to stay in the business after the auction, would clearly benefit from more flexibility.
“NAB is delighted that a bipartisan group of Congressional leaders is committed to addressing these important issues," said National Association of Broadcasters spokesman Dennis Wharton.