When the House Communications Subcommittee convenes today to learn more about the FCC's planned incentive auction, no representative of the low-power television indusry will be heard. That's wrong. "It is the only group that has nothing to gain and everything to lose, especially if the repack is as aggressive as some would like it to be."
LPTV Deserves Opportunity To Be Heard
One of the great words that describe America is “opportunity.” America has faults, but we have always been the “Land of Opportunity.” Everyone has the opportunity to succeed, the opportunity to fail and the opportunity to speak up and defend one’s beliefs. Opportunity is at the very core of who we are as a people and as a nation. We have always believed that everyone deserves this basic right. Those in power should make sure that opportunities remain available for everyone, especially the most vulnerable among us.
That is why the incentive auction oversight hearing being held by the House Communications and Technology Subcommittee today is so troubling. Many groups and industry representatives were invited to testify. But there was one glaring oversight. Not one representative from the low-power television industry was invited. Why is this so egregious? Simply put, no other group has more to lose in the incentive auction and related repacking than does LPTV. It is the only group that has nothing to gain and everything to lose, especially if the repack is as aggressive as some would like it to be.
Consider these four facts:
- LPTV stations cannot enter the auction.
- If no spectrum remains in their market after the repack, LPTV stations will be involuntarily wiped out with no compensation.
- LPTV stations get no reimbursement if their spectrum is taken away and they are forced to move to another channel to exist.
- Millions of TV viewers may lose their only source of free information and free entertainment.
These facts alone should have caused Congress to hear testimony from the LPTV industry. They have already heard plenty from the wireless companies. Wireless giants have spent hundreds of millions of dollars lobbying for the auction. They have the most to gain from taking the free airwaves away from the American public.
In a sense, the destruction of the broadcast industry would be in their best interests. They have been invited multiple times to testify. To the best of our knowledge LPTV has never been called to testify about the auction/repack. Not once.
Because those that have the most to gain from the auction have been the loudest voices in this debate, their side is the one Congress has heard the clearest. When only one side of an issue is heard, the decision can never be both informed and fair. In fact, some in Congress may have been deceived during this process. This isn’t about the lack of spectrum. It is about monopolies wanting to create a new spectrum layout that lacks competitors.
At stake in this matter are hundreds of independent LPTV stations owned by small businesses, communities and religious organizations. By not inviting the testimony of LPTV licensees, Congress has chosen to not hear from them. This simply is not right. And it will lead to an imbalanced view of the outcome of the proposed auction. Congress owes it to the American people to hear all the facts before they risk wiping out an entire industry.
Why have they not invited the small LPTV business owners, the religions broadcasters who operate LPTV stations, and the community LPTV broadcasters who bring news and information to their towns? Many families, churches and business people will have their livelihood and platforms of communication destroyed. Shouldn’t Congress hear from them before any final decisions are made regarding the Spectrum Auction? Don’t these voices deserve the opportunity to be heard before they are silenced forever?
Rod Payne is a low-power TV operator and chairman of the Advanced Television Broadcasting Alliance, a group dedicated to preserving spectrum for TV broadcasting.