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Congress

House Leaders Urged To Protect Broadcasters In Debt Deal

July 7, 2011

The nation's top broadcasters appear to be trying to get ahead of any possible deal on the debt ceiling that might include a provision providing authority to conduct auctions involving spectrum relinquished by television stations.

Broadcasterswrote House leaders Thursday, urging them to ensure television stations are not harmed if debt ceiling legislation includes a provision to give the Federal Communications Commission authority to conduct incentive auctions.

Such auctions are aimed at enticing broadcasters and others to voluntarily give up their spectrum in exchange for a share in the proceeds.

"Broadcasters are not opposed to granting the FCC voluntary incentive auction authority, so long as the authorizing legislation includes specific safeguards," the top executives with the nation's top four broadcast network affiliate groups wrote.

Supporters of incentive auctions say they could generate as much as $10 billion for deficit reduction. The White House and Congress are currently in talks over GOP demands that raising the debt ceiling be contingent on deficit reduction.

In their letter to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., the broadcasters note that if the incentive auction provision is included as a revenue raiser in the debt ceiling deal, they want four "essential safeguards" included.

These include ensuring that the quality of a station's signal is not harmed if it is forced to relocate; that the incentive auction process does not hamper broadcasters' ability to offer new digital services; that the FCC be permitted to conduct only one round of incentive auctions; and that broadcasters be reimbursed for any costs associated with the process.

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