Wheeler aide Jessica Almond says that it’s possible minority and LPTV owners may sell their spectrum in the upcoming auction, but there are other means available to promote diversity in ownership and programming.
Diversity Could Take A Hit Following Auction
A top aide to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler acknowledged that the FCC’s incentive auction could diminish diversity in broadcast ownership and programming by inducing stations that provide such diversity to sell out.
“As you know, it is completely voluntary for stations to participate” in the auction, said Jessica Almond at an annual NAB Show breakfast hosted by communications attorney Erwin Krasnow.
“If a minority or a diverse programming station chooses to participate, I have no business telling them what to do with their business,” she said, responding to a question following her speech.
“So, while we wish such stations to stay in business, that’s not what the purpose of the auction is.”
She also said that the incentive auction could impact low-power TV stations offering diverse programming.
“In areas that are already quite dense in broadcasting where a smaller TV band necessarily means everyone will be a little more squeezed, I think there is a possibility that LPTV stations may have some difficulty.”
The space “available for LPTV is highly dependent on the amount of participation, the amount of spectrum that is bought and the size of the TV band after the auction,” she said.
However, she added, the FCC could mitigate any loss of diversity from LPTVs by allowing the stations to share channels.
“We have also said we will make our repacking analysis available to help [LPTVs] more easily find channels after the repack.”
Defending the Wheeler record on broadcast diversity, Almond also said that the FCC’s tightening of its local ownership limits and enforcement of the national ownership cap have caused buyers of stations groups to spin off stations to woman and minorities. “We see that as improvement.”
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