Lack of incentive auction info draws strong criticism


Spectrum EvolutionGreg Herman of wants to know why the FCC is requiring LPTVs to invest in digital plants when they may soon cease to exist due to channel repacking; and why struggling TVs are required to continue to struggle when they plan to offer their spectrum for auction.

Herman said that Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) was right to question FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski during an oversight hearing about the lack of information given stakeholders about the FCC’s Allotment Optimization Model.

“There is a critical need for early access to the FCC’s Allotment Optimization Model (“AOM”),” Herman said, “particularly since Low Power TV stations, who currently cannot participate in the Voluntary Incentive Auction and may lose their licenses and investments after repacking, don’t know what problems repacking will cause, while the FCC says they have to invest in converting to digital by September 2015.”

Herman added, “It also makes no sense for the FCC to encourage TV stations which are struggling or have become financially unviable for whatever reason to participate in the VIA, but to require them to stay on the air and deteriorate further while waiting for FCC decisions. Why not allow them to pledge their spectrum NOW and then go dark to avoid further losses? That would provide critical information on levels of participation, could dramatically affect the accuracy of the AOM, and would avoid driving up reverse auction price demands to recover increasing losses.”

The organization passed along comments recently made in meetings with the latest additions to the FCC’s 8th Floor, Jessica Rosenworcel and Ajit Pai, and their staffs.

“One wonders if the right hand at the FCC knows what the left hand is doing, when we see statements endorsing flexible and more efficient use of spectrum followed by an unwillingness to allow any experimentation of new technologies by incumbent broadcasters, and suggestions that broadcasters are willing and/or are eager to participate in a VIA when no broadcaster is publicly willing to be counted in that group. The FCC also endorses ’White Spaces’ innovation while planning to reduce and tightly repack the broadcast spectrum pool, essentially eliminating white spaces in larger markets. If the goal is to encourage broader deployment of broadband, especially in rural areas where the current wireless incumbents claim they can’t make a business case for deployment, then every technology idea based on private capital should be strongly and immediately encouraged.”

RBR-TVBR observation: Herman has a very valid point. It’s one thing to ask for patience while working up a complete plan for such as complex undertaking as spectrum incentive auctions. It’s another to force private businesses to throw away money while doing so.

The lack of certainty is a problem for all television broadcasters, but it is a particular problem for the very broadcasters who are least able to absorb any government-inflicted financial damage.

Come on, FCC, these stations have more than a right to know, they have a need to know.