NAB Says FCC Must Conduct Translator, LPTV Impact Study

The issue of the impact of the broadcast incentive auction on translators, which relay full-power TV station signals to hard-to-reach areas, is getting a lot of attention this week. Read the story on B&C -

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LPTVs Unconvinced by FCC Chair

Low Power TV advocates were not reassured by FCC chairman Tom Wheeler's pledge to Congress that the FCC was taking steps to mitigate the impact of the post-incentive auction TV station repack on LPTVs and translators, which he called important voices. Read more from B&C -

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FCC Chairman Blames Congressional Intent

The Advanced Television Broadcasting Alliance (ATBA) appreciates efforts of the House Energy and Commerce Committee Communications and Technology subcommittee in today’s “Continued Oversight of the Federal Communications Commission” hearing. This hearing once again emphasized the lack of consideration of the Low Power Television and Translator industry by FCC Chairman Wheeler.


FCC Commissioner Pai in his opening comments mentioned the uncertainty that Low Power Television and Translator stations are facing. “For a successful auction, we all know that the sellers and buyers need to fully understand and support the rules. Yet when it comes to the band plan, questions and uncertainty abound. Layered on top is growing concern regarding how the repack will work, including as it relates to the future of low power television stations and translators. It was never our intent that these diverse voices in the marketplace would get fully silenced”


Following Pai’s opening statement, Communications and Technology Chair Greg Walden (R-Ore) opened questioning by asking “What do you plan to do to minimize the impacts of repacking on LPTV and translators to help insure that their important programming continues to reach viewers?”


Wheeler answered by saying they would help stations find new channels and allow channel sharing. Walden then asked about help with displacement and Wheeler wrapped by sidestepping the question with a quick, “I’ll get back on that.”


Representative Joe Barton (R-Texas) opened his comments by stating he was a leading advocate for Low Power Television Stations and asked Chairman Wheeler and Commissioner Pai about the importance and survival of LPTV after the auction. All agreed that Low Power and Translators are an important voice in our country. Wheeler continued with his same two points in his answer to Barton, first, to help LPTV find new channels and second, begin a ruling that will help low-power and translators to share a channel. Addressing the same question, Pai shared his concerns that the policy cuts the FCC was on the brink of making might impair LPTV, and the vacant channel proceeding is just one example. Speaking of LPTV and Translator stations, Pai continued to say that the FCC should do what it can to prioritize them staying in business.

In the final round of questioning, Committee Chairman Walden circled back to the LPTV issue asking FCC Chairman Wheeler directly the questions, “won’t setting aside an entire channel for unlicensed contribute to the problems we are hearing from Translators and LPTV stations? Will you commit to LPTV and Translators having priority over unlicensed in the TV band?”

Wheeler tossed the blame of no priority back to Walden by saying, “No, I believe it is clear, the mandate from this committee is that there is no priority given to LPTV and the committee did say however that we should also be encouraging unlicensed.”

Walden corrected with his recollection of the statute, “Unlicensed was never set aside as a priority to create a nationwide band. We had a lot of discussion that you didn’t clear all of this and then give it to, in effect, some really big operators.”

Louis Libin, ATBA Executive Director was present in the committee hearing and had the following to say after hearing the exchange on Congressional intent. “In its zeal to create new unlicensed channels by eliminating LPTV and TV Translators, the FCC is learning that it may not be as simple and clean as twisting congressional intent, especially, if those in congress who wrote the words, disagree with the FCC's interpretation of Congress's words.”

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ATBA Appalled with FCC Proposed Rulemaking

The Advanced Television Broadcasting Alliance (ATBA) is appalled at today’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the Incentive Auction. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the notice is proposing to reserve a television channel in each market, post-auction, for unlicensed use.  Low Power Television stations (LPTVs) and Translators filing displacement applications post-auction will have to show they protect the reserved unlicensed use channel.

“The FCC today released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that is terribly devastating to the Low Power Television industry,” Louis Libin, ATBA Executive Director. “It is shockingly aggressive”

The notice proposes that full power stations will not have to protect the reserved channel, but asks whether they should be required to do so after the post-auction period for filing license modifications.

Libin continues, “This is a terrible day for LPTV and the American way with the FCC taking a direct shot at localism, news and entertainment. The entire item is absolutely negative to LPTV. I am particularly concerned about what could amount in some markets to a permanent freeze on license modifications that would change the interference footprint and devastate LPTV. This item makes the reserved unlicensed channel co-primary with full power broadcast licenses!”

There was not unanimity among the FCC Commissioners in the release. Witness the comments from Commissioners Pai and O’Rielly, the two, minority (Republican) members.

Commissioner Pai:

“Speaking of those other tentative conclusions, I cannot support the Commission’s proposal to prioritize the spectrum needs of unlicensed white space devices over those of translators and LPTV stations. Since the beginning of this proceeding, I have emphasized the need to take action where we can to preserve the vital services provided by these low power television stations. After the incentive auction, there will not be enough spectrum available to keep all translators and LPTV stations on the air. That is a fact. But here is another fact: The Notice’s proposals will force more translators and LPTV stations off the air. Translators and LPTV stations that could have been placed in the last vacant channel in a market will have to make way for unlicensed white space devices.

Notwithstanding the underwhelming impact of unlicensed white-space devices in the market to date, my objection to the Commission’s proposal is not rooted in a belief that the services provided by translators and LPTV stations are more important than those provided by unlicensed devices. Rather, it is based on the simple reality that translators and low-power television stations won’t have anywhere else to go after the incentive auction. If they are not allowed to continue operating in the UHF band, they will go out of business. On the other hand, there are other spectrum bands where unlicensed devices can operate, and I hope that soon there will be even more. For example, since October 2012, I have been calling for the FCC to take action to make 195 MHz of new spectrum available for unlicensed use in the 5 GHz band, an amount that dwarfs the 6 MHz of spectrum that is being fought over here.

Finally, a word about process. When I offered four proposed edits to this item, I did not expect that all four would be accepted. But I did have hope that some of my proposals, especially those involving the treatment of full-power television stations, would make their way into the item. Unfortunately, all four of my suggestions were dismissed out of hand. To be sure, I can’t say that I was completely surprised. It is indicative of the partisan manner in which the incentive auction proceeding has been run. But it remains unfortunate. I continue to believe that the Commission’s work product is better when all Commissioners, Democrats and Republicans, are allowed to contribute. And while the evidence to date does not provide much cause for optimism, I will continue to offer constructive suggestions in the hope we can structure the incentive auction in the same bipartisan spirit that animated Congress in 2012.”

Commissioner O’Rielly

“Finally, as I have stated in the past, in implementing the Spectrum Act and conducting the Incentive Auction, we need to treat all parties fairly. This includes those broadcasters that decide not to participate in the auction and are repacked. Instead of bringing broadcasters to the table, we keep considering actions that are likely to alienate them or, like the decision today, make it harder for the broadcast industry to compete and thrive in the modern marketplace. Apparently, localism, diversity and media ownership are really important for some people, until they are not. And all we are doing here is starting down a path towards statutory authority challenges and further litigation.”

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