The FCC on Thursday (3/2) revealed the tentative agenda for its next Open Meeting, set for Thursday, March 23, and among the six items the three Commissioners will consider is a Report and Order that would authorize channel sharing outside the context of the incentive auction.
This would permit stations with auction-related channel sharing agreements to continue to operate if their auction-related agreements expire or otherwise terminate.
The Report and Order would extend the ability to share channels beyond a temporary time frame associated with a post-incentive auction “repack,” which will become necessary as spectrum is handed to wireless carriers.
It is Chairman Ajit Pai‘s contention that the R&O would allow low-power TV stations and translator channels expanded abilities, providing additional voices to the broadcast television landscape.
The comments came as Raycom Media President/CEO Pat LaPlatney testified Thursday morning on behalf of the NAB at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on “Exploring the Value of Spectrum to the U.S. Economy.”
LaPlatney used his opportunity to address Senate leaders by focusing his discussion on the next-generation television standard, ATSC 3.0.
“In a world where broadband access is an expectation on par with electricity and water, and social media is ubiquitous, the importance of local broadcasting and the trusted news coverage it affords is paramount,” LaPlatney said. “Through Next Gen TV, broadcasters will deliver all of this along with the most-watched entertainment programming and sports to your constituents in new and exciting ways.”
But, he highlighted “one issue currently before Congress that does pose challenges to viewers’ ability to enjoy the benefits of Next Gen TV” – the successful completion of the broadcast incentive auction.
“As the auction winds its way to completion, one thing is certain: the broadcast industry will end up with less spectrum,” LaPlatney said. “So, the ability of those non-participating stations to repack successfully into a smaller broadcast band, without viewer disruption, is critical.”
Also on the Open Meeting agenda for March is consideration of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Notice of Inquiry that would enable voice service providers to better protect subscribers from illegal and fraudulent robocalls, and a Report and Order and Further NPRM that would adopt rules to facilitate the deployment of technologies used to combat contraband wireless devices in correctional facilities, while seeking comment on additional proposals and solutions.
Cellular service reform and “improving the quality and efficiency of video relay service” are also up for discussion, as well as a NPRM that proposes changes to Part 43 Reporting Requirements for U.S. Providers of International Services.
Meanwhile, there will be no return of Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel to the FCC. While there had been speculation that Congressional Republicans would be open to her return, given her on-the-fence stance related to former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s controversial set-top box proposal, the Trump Administration withdrew President Obama’s renomination of Rosenworcel, made in the waning days of his presidency. It now remains to be seen if a Democrat will fill her seat, or if an individual who is an independent takes the slot.
In other FCC news, the House Communications and Technology Subcommittee, headed by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), has yielded to the Senate Commerce Committee by nixing its planned March 8 FCC oversight hearing. It would have been on the same day as the Senate’s FCC hearing.