NAB seeks to prevent rash decision on TV spectrum repack


Although the NAB says it has asked to see FCC modeling on the likely results of the channel repacking necessary to extract 120 contiguous MHz from television broadcasters, nothing as yet has been forthcoming. So the NAB did its own modeling, and doesn’t like what it sees.

In a conference with reporters, NAB President/CEO said NAB has been made aware that incentive spectrum auctions could wind up being a revenue element in a debt ceiling deal. He noted that the money involved would be a mere droplet in that context, but the effect on broadcasters could be profound. NAB believes time is of the essence to get a potential impact study before members of Congress.

Smith said broadcasters have no problem with being tied to the debt ceiling, as long as the policy, as it pertains to broadcasters, is correct. And that means that broadcast contours and audiences are protected, that they are fully compensated for all costs associated with repacking, that they are fully able to offer innovative service that result from the DTV conversion, and that the process remains fully voluntary.

The problems for broadcasters and their viewers could be profound if a 120 MHz repacking is approved, chasing broadcasters out of Channels 31-51.

“If the FCC’s National Broadband Plan to recapture 20 more TV channels is implemented, service disruption, confusion and inconvenience for local television viewers will make the 2009 DTV transition seem like child’s play,” said NAB President Gordon Smith. “NAB endorses truly voluntary spectrum auctions. Our concern is that the FCC plan will morph into involuntary, because it is impossible for the FCC to meet spectrum reclamation goals without this becoming a government mandate.”

Smith noted that broadcast, besides being a primary source of local news and information, is a key component of the nation’s communications system during times of emergency, and one need look no further back in time than to the recent devastating tornadoes in Alabama and Missouri. He said there is no doubt that the mobile world offers fine products and services, but the 1-to-1 relationship between provider and user makes it inefficient, not to mention the difficulty the medium has staying operational.

Further, Smith suggested that the biggest spectrum hog was video delivery, and said there may not be enough spectrum in the universe to accommodate the mobile 1-to-1 paradigm. He said the broadcast one-to-many model still makes it the most efficient video distributor, and that broadcasters would like to fill that role moving forward – but will need their full signal strength to do it.

NAB issued the following highlights based on the Monday 7/25/11 release:

* Top Ten TV markets would be dramatically impacted by the FCC proposal, with 73 stations in the largest ten markets going off the air;

* More than half of all TV stations would likely need to disrupt service for millions of viewers for a few hours up to a few weeks to accommodate repositioning of those TV channels “repacked” into a lower channel assignment;

* Service disruptions would occur at more than 800 TV stations in large markets, mid-sized markets and small markets; the negative impact would be spread among network-owned stations and affiliates, Spanish and other foreign-language stations, independent, religious and public TV stations;

* Americans living in cities along the Canadian border would bear extra burdens because of international treaty obligations designed to minimize interference between Canadian and U.S. cities. Under the FCC NBP, all Detroit TV stations could go dark. Other border cities that could face severe disruptions and loss of service include Buffalo, Seattle, Syracuse, Cleveland, Spokane, Rochester and Watertown, NY and Flint, Mich.

Ultimately, NAB is requesting that the FCC go public with its own assessment of the National Broadband Plan impact on “free and local television.”

NAB called on the FCC to immediately make public its analyses of the NBP’s potential negative impact on viewers of free and local television.

Smith concluded, “We’ve waited patiently for over a year for FCC data on how the Broadband Plan impacts broadcasters, and more importantly, the tens of millions of viewers who rely every day on local TV for news, entertainment, sports and lifeline emergency weather information,” said the NAB’s Smith. “Even Congress can’t get information from the FCC. All we are seeking is more transparency. We have but one chance to get this right if we are to preserve future innovation for broadcasters and our viewers.”

NAB discussed a power point presentation of data with reporters, and RBR-TVBR reported on a slightly different version was made public late last week.