TV Stations Sue FCC Over Plan to Auction Broadcast Licenses

The cell-phone industry hopes the lawsuit won’t delay the auction of valuable airwaves.

A cell phone tower rises above the trees in Sudbury, Massachusetts.
National Journal
Brendan Sasso
Aug. 18, 2014, 2:35 p.m.

A lob­by­ing group for TV sta­tions sued the Fed­er­al Com­mu­nic­a­tions Com­mis­sion Monday over the agency’s plan to auc­tion their broad­cast li­censes to cell-phone car­ri­ers.

TV sta­tions don’t have to par­ti­cip­ate in the auc­tion, and the air­waves will mean faster smart­phone con­nec­tions for mil­lions of con­sumers.

But the Na­tion­al As­so­ci­ation of Broad­casters warned that the auc­tion could hurt the TV sta­tions that choose to stay on the air. In its law­suit, the group claimed that the re­main­ing sta­tions could reach few­er view­ers and could be forced to pay mil­lions of dol­lars to re­vamp their equip­ment to work on new fre­quen­cies.  

The law­suit notes that Con­gress ordered the FCC to make “all reas­on­able ef­forts” to pre­serve the cov­er­age area of TV sta­tions that re­fuse to par­ti­cip­ate in the auc­tion. 

“Loc­al broad­casters should not be forced to go out of pock­et to help multi-na­tion­al wire­less gi­ants,” Rick Ka­plan, an NAB ex­ec­ut­ive, said in a blog post.

The group is not try­ing to stop the auc­tion en­tirely, but wants the FCC to re­work its rules to pro­tect the sta­tions that sit out the auc­tion. Ka­plan said the suit is “not de­signed to de­rail the auc­tion, or even slow it down.”

“We are look­ing for a mid-course cor­rec­tion that bet­ter re­flects Con­gress’ in­tent and that pro­tects broad­casters and the mil­lions of vul­ner­able over-the-air TV view­ers,” he said.

But a pro­longed leg­al battle could be­come a head­ache for the FCC and could force the agency to delay the auc­tion. The cell-phone in­dustry has been clam­or­ing for more air­waves, warn­ing that their net­works could soon be­come con­ges­ted due to skyrock­et­ing traffic.

Scott Bergmann, the head of reg­u­lat­ory af­fairs for wire­less lob­by­ing group CTIA, said he hopes the courts will handle the NAB’s law­suit quickly and that the broad­casters won’t cause un­ne­ces­sary delays.

An FCC spokes­per­son said the agency is “con­fid­ent” that the plan com­plies with the law. 

Wal­ter Piecyk, a wire­less in­dustry ana­lyst with the firm BTIG, said the FCC is already be­ing op­tim­ist­ic by aim­ing for a 2015 auc­tion.

“This provides just one more hurdle to de­liv­er on that goal,” he said.

What We're Following See More »
THE QUESTION
How Many Jobs Would Be Lost Under Bernie Sanders’s Single-Payer System?
6 hours ago
THE ANSWER

More than 11 million, according to Manhattan Institute fellow Yevgeniy Feyman, writing in RealClearPolicy.

Source:
WEEKEND DATA DUMP
State to Release 550 More Clinton Emails on Saturday
7 hours ago
THE LATEST

Under pressure from a judge, the State Department will release about 550 of Hillary Clinton’s emails—“roughly 14 percent of the 3,700 remaining Clinton emails—on Saturday, in the middle of the Presidents Day holiday weekend.” All of the emails were supposed to have been released last month. Related: State subpoenaed the Clinton Foundation last year, which brings the total number of current Clinton investigations to four, says the Daily Caller.

Source:
LATER TO THIS YEAR’S NADER
Jim Webb Rules Out Independent Bid
7 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

UPDATED: Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) will not be playing the role of Ralph Nader in this year’s election. Speaking in Dallas today, Webb said, “We looked at the possibility of an independent candidacy. Theoretically, it could be done, but it is enormously costly and time sensitive, and I don’t see the fundraising trajectory where we could make a realistic run.”

Source:
HE’D SIPHON OFF DEM VOTES
RNC Chief Would Welcome Bloomberg
7 hours ago
THE DETAILS

“The lead­ers of the Re­pub­lic­an and Demo­crat­ic na­tion­al com­mit­tees on Wed­nes­day weighed in on the pro­spect of an in­de­pend­ent pres­id­en­tial run by” former New York City May­or Mi­chael Bloomberg (I). “DNC Chair­wo­man Debbie Wasser­man Schultz sug­ges­ted that the former New York City may­or’s pri­or­it­ies are already ‘well cared-for’ in the Demo­crat­ic plat­form, while RNC lead­er Re­ince Priebus wel­comed the idea, say­ing Bloomberg would si­phon off votes from the Demo­crat­ic can­did­ate.”

Source:
THE QUESTION
How Large Is Hillary Clinton’s Delegate Lead?
8 hours ago
THE ANSWER

Three hundred fifty-two, thanks to superdelegates pledged to Clinton, and the vagaries of the delegate allocation process in early states. Not bad, considering her results have been a virtual tie and a blowout loss.

Source:
×