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Broadcasters Considering FCC Incentive Auctions Launch Coalition

photo of Juliana Gruenwald
November 13, 2012

A group of broadcasters interested in possibly participating in a new type of spectrum auction the Federal Communications Commission is crafting aimed at enticing television stations to give up spectrum to wireless operators are launching a coalition to lobby policymakers on the issue.

The Expanding Opportunities for Broadcasters Coalition will press to obtain the best conditions for broadcasters as the FCC implements legislation passed in February that authorizes the use of incentive auctions to free up  TV stations' spectrum for use by wireless broadband providers.

The FCC approved a notice of proposed rule-making in September that began the process of crafting the incentive auction rules. The auctions will involve three steps: a “reverse” auction to determine which broadcasters may want to participate; repacking remaining broadcasters to clear swaths of spectrum for auction; and a “forward” auction of the spectrum relinquished by participating TV stations.

The new coalition will be led by Preston Padden, a former executive with ABC, Disney, and Fox. “I thought its the most exciting thing happening” in the broadcast space, Padden told Tech Daily Doseon Tuesday.

Padden said he would not be disclosing the names of the coalition members given confidentiality provisions included in the spectrum legislation authorizing the incentive auctions and the FCC’s proposed rules. However, he said the members include TV stations that are considering participating if the FCC includes the right incentives.

Padden noted that broadcasters would have a variety of options if participating in the auctions. They include giving up all their spectrum and getting out of the broadcasting business, giving up their spectrum and sharing spectrum with another station in the same market, or moving from a UHF channel to a less-desirable VHF channel.

Padden said his group’s work would not conflict with the efforts of the industry’s premier lobbying group, the National Association of Broadcasters.  “I view it as complementary” to the NAB’s work, he said.

“NAB will continue to engage our members, the FCC, and others to develop an auction that allows volunteer broadcasters to be adequately compensated for leaving the business while holding harmless TV stations that remain on the air,” NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton said in a statement about the new coalition on Tuesday.

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