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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Dear Fellow LPTV Broadcaster and Industry Leaders,

The auction has ended and most of us are still here.  While it was not only our hope but the hope of many others that the auction would not take place . . . it did, but it did not have the devastating effect that it might have had. 

The world after the auction looks different and amazingly so has a very bright future!

What does that future look like?  Not only the amazing possibilities of ATSC 3.0 but the landscape of a nation of people who are increasingly cutting their cable cords and looking for free, over the air, broadcasting content.

That’s why it’s more important than ever that you join the Advanced Television Broadcast Alliance.  Our board of directors have a combined 500+ years of experience which beginning with your membership we are going to start making more available to our members on an increasing basis.

Soon as an ATBA member, you will be eligible to start tapping into not only this brain trust through unique services available only to our members but regular news updates regarding our collective broadcast future.  We are exploring new ways to tap into information from Washington as well as important updates that will benefit you right there where you live.

The need for the ATBA has increased with the new opportunities that are becoming available for those of us who still know that the future of LPTV, Class A and Translators is bright!  Are you selling your station to local sponsors?  Are you maximizing your spectrum to the advantage that you truly can?  Are you struggling with FCC rules and regulations that you either don’t understand or can’t get explained?

The ATBA is developing a database of information to help you find the answers you need! 

In addition we are still working with the true decision makers in Washington.  Your ATBA has earned the respect and the ear of the true movers and shakers that continue to shape our collective broadcasting future.

So what can you do to get involved and begin to take advantage of these, and many other, benefits?  Join the ATBA today!  Your membership benefits will include:

  1. Members only access to hundreds of years of LPTV experience through our new “Brain Trust”
  2. Early entry to our annual NAB LPTV evening event with access to our special event guest(s)
  3. Exclusive digital content regarding real world information you need to know
  4. Eligibility for recognition for your hard work through our ATBA LPTV Awards
  5. Access to equipment manufacturers with discounts available especially for ATBA members!

To be honest you can’t afford not to be a member of the ATBA! 

We’re making it affordable because it’s a win – win!  When you join, you’re going to receive more than just the benefits listed above but also you’ll be aligning with hundreds of others who, like yourself, have a vested interest in the continued forward movement of free, over-the-air broadcasting.  It’s a win for your ATBA because we will increase our strength through numbers as we grow together.

So what’s the next step?  If you’re ready follow this link https://www.broadcastingalliance.org/join-us/ to sign up.  If you have more questions please don’t hesitate to call a member of the ATBA board of directors by calling this number (877) 214-4277.   You’ll get a rapid response!

Thanks for taking the time to read this note and for your ongoing passion for the future of communication in this great country.

Respectfully,

The Board of Directors – The Advanced Television Broadcast Alliance