NAB Runs Full Court Press On Auction Action

Sen. Harry Reid’s debt reduction proposal would permit the FCC to conduct incentive auctions of TV spectrum and share the proceeds with broadcasters who give up spectrum, but doesn’t have safeguards that broadcasters want. NAB is lobbying against the plan, calling it “about as big a threat as there is in terms of the future of our business.”

The National Association of Broadcasters is cranking up its grassroots lobbying machine out of concern that Congress may vote on a debt reduction package this week that will grant the FCC authority to conduct incentive auctions of broadcast TV spectrum without adequate protections for broadcasters who choose not to participate in the auctions.

“It’s all hands on deck for us,” says NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton. “We think this is about as big a threat as there is in terms of the future of our business. We have one chance to get this right.”

The focus of NAB’s concern is the debt reduction plan authored by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). Reid’s proposal, like the pending Senate bill (S.911), would permit the FCC to conduct incentive auctions of TV spectrum and share the proceeds with broadcasters who give up spectrum.

But Reid’s proposal is worrisome because, unlike S. 911, it does not contain any “replication or interference protections’’ for local TV stations that chose not to relinquish their spectrum, according to industry sources familiar with the plan.

NAB is already seeing results from the advocacy advertising campaign it launched to “help educate viewers,” says Wharton. Stations have been running TV and radio spots since July 18.

According to Wharton, those ads have generated 25,000 calls to Congress, 45,000 emails and 80,000 visits to NAB’s “Future of TV’’ website.


NAB is warning TV viewers that “Right now, congressional action may threaten the local TV you rely on. Millions could lose access to free local news, others could lose their HD unless Congress protects local TV.”

NAB is also urging stations executives to call their members of Congress.

Broadcasters know time is short. Congress has until Aug. 2 to raise the debt ceiling and avoid defaulting on its loans, which could have a variety of dire consequences for the U.S. economy.

But raising the debt ceiling is tied to Republicans and Democrats coming up with a debt reduction plan that they can both agree to. So far, the parties have not been able to compromise on a plan.

The House is expected to vote on a debt-reduction measure later today, but that measure does not include incentive auction language.

NAB and broadcast industry lobbyists are focused on Reid’s proposal and pushing for revisions.

Broadcasters are hoping that Reid will adopt some of the language in S. 911, which is backed by Senate Commerce Committee Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.).

A top priority for TV stations is to have legislation that will clearly establish that a broadcasters’ service area will remain unaffected by incentive auctions, according to Gerry Waldron, a communications attorney with Covington & Burling, whose clients include the CBS and NBC affiliate organizations.

He says broadcaster are also seeking protections that will “make sure this is a one-time auction, there is no mandatory relocation from a UHF band to a VHF band and there should be money to reimburse broadcasters for relocation.”

Reid’s provisions do include a $1 billion fund to cover costs associated with relocating TV broadcasters. But those funds must be shared with cable and satellite operators that are affected by the auctions.

Ultimately, it may be Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) who takes up the broadcasters’ cause. Broadcast industry sources say that McConnell would rather not see incentive auctions in debt ceiling measure.

However, they say, if auctions are included, McConnell is prepared to insist on some of the protections TV broadcasters are seeking

In the meantime, TV station executives will keep calling their members of Congress and keep running the ads.

CBS affiliate WBDJ Roanoke, Va., is airing the NAB ads three times a day, says Jeffrey A. Marks, president and general manager of the Schurz Communications station.

In the “rush to generate revenue,” he says, there is a lot of confusion about spectrum auctions and a lot of issues can get overlooked. He thinks it is imperative that broadcasters make the case for the importance of free over-the air television.

“Local television news is the No. 1 source of news in this country and we want to make sure that a spectrum auction system doesn’t undermine that,  doesn’t undermine the ability to get weather information to people in a hurry. There are a huge number of people for whom free, over-the air local television is a lifeline.”

Comments (9)

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Warren Harmon says:

July 28, 2011 at 4:24 pm

GO NAB, I suggest you rally the lower income oBOMa electorate free loaders that they are going to loose free TV.

Oh, sorry for the mistake, I meant “Enemy of the State oBAMa”

Teri Green says:

July 28, 2011 at 4:29 pm

Except that many of the poorest of the poor already lost TV when digital came in and they could not get the signals. In some parts of NY and NJ they are even allowing cable as a deduction to computing welfare as people who had analog signals now get none in their flats.

The solution is simple. All OTA TV goes to SD. We then will have tons of bandwidth free. We also scrap this current DTV and start with an MP4 that is future upgradeable. Sure it will cost a bit now, but since 85% or more have cable or Dish it won’t hurt many, and those who can’t get DTV signals are already hurt.

    mike tomasino says:

    July 28, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    Why do you want to take free OTA HDTV away from the rest of us because YOU have a problem!!! How seriously selfish can you be?

    len Kubas says:

    July 28, 2011 at 7:39 pm

    that’s absurd. These “poorest of the poor” didn’t watch tv and know that they could get free converter boxes? If so, that only doubled the average IQ of the tv audience.

Joanne McDonald says:

July 28, 2011 at 4:54 pm

I would take a bet that Daystar, Trinity, Ion and all the other religious and minor broadcast network plus all the diginets multicast networks would round up being regulated to cable only network that would be made available to customers with FTA systems and be made available on all cable systems as well as on both Directv and Dish Network and also be allowed to stream their programming online for internet users at no cost. I like the idea in which NBC stations share their channel with Telemundo, CBS stations sharing with CW, FOX stations sharing with MyNET, Univision and Telefutura share a channel together, and ABC would continue to not have to worry about sharing their stations with another network or another station. I would recommend that all the TV stations that are now on the UHF 14-51 band in digital that were on 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, and 13 in analog be forced to move on 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, and 13 in digital and all the TV stations that are now on the UHF 14-51 band in digital that were on 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, and 30 in analog be forced to move back to those channels in digital plus all the TV stations that are now on the VHF 7-13 high band with different RF physical channel numbers on the VHF high band in digital that were on 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, and 13 in analog to be forced to move back to those channels in digital by 2015 or 2016. I like the idea of all the TV stations be allowed to transmit all HDTV and SDTV as well as mobile programming in the MPEG 4 format in the future. I like the idea of both IVI TV and FilmOn HDi be allowed to go in business again and be able to transmit all the local stations to the viewers on the net for free without any interference from the government for violating any copyright laws with benefits for online viewers that want to watch their favorite stations programming such as local news and shows even after the spectrum auction and plan becomes very mandated and very hard for TV stations to be able to stay on the air without being able to stream all their programming online to the viewers online. I’m afraid that my take of what channels the TV stations ought to be on with the planning of an spectrum auction. I’m actually updating the same post I commented from an earlier article related to this. Thank you for my understanding to this crisis in the TV business lately.

    mike tomasino says:

    July 28, 2011 at 5:35 pm

    All those religious people should be relegated to ghetos, or sent off to death camps, so that the ultra rich can make more money.

    len Kubas says:

    July 28, 2011 at 7:40 pm

    this guy’s notions are foolish. He really needs to read the book “The Case Against God” by L. Milam to find out where a similar notion has gone.

Dante Betteo says:

July 28, 2011 at 7:11 pm

If there is a frequency shift, I would suggest that all LP’s got to the low VHF band and givve then 50kw. Place all the religious and PSB statiopns on the upper part of the VHF band with 100kw. then 14 to 31 can be for stations that want to make money. Or leave the TV spectrum alone.

Brian Walshe says:

July 28, 2011 at 10:09 pm

Let’s waste more money and time… and p— off viewers some more. Leave the television spectrum alone FCOL. Television broadcasters of ALL varieties need to be allowed to have some rest after all the DTV transition, to fix the coverage problems caused by DTV on VHF and viewers need to be able to catch up with the changes.

Meantime, the wireless companies ought to use the spectrum they’ve already got before crying for more. The auctions won’t raise a whole lot of money for the government, yet will create more hassle–and work for the FCC, which I think (opinion) hasn’t had enough trained clerical or engineering worker bees to handle the existing workload.

Enough, already!

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