March 8, 216 — The National Association of Broadcasters is 100 percent committed to the upcoming TV auction. We are working with Congress and the FCC to promote a successful broadcast spectrum incentive auction, advocating for stations that choose to participate and those that do not.
We expect robust participation from our members.
We’re working in bipartisan fashion with Congress to ensure that the repacking timeline that will result in a shrunken swath of spectrum set aside for TV broadcasting is realistic.
The FCC has set a 39-month window for relocating — or repacking — channels after the spectrum incentive auction, but by all accounts, this timeframe is simply not realistic. We also will insist that no broadcaster is forced to pay out of pocket for the privilege of staying in business after the repack.
Congress set aside $1.75 billion in the Television Broadcaster Relocation Fund to cover reasonable costs necessary to relocate to new channel assignments after the auction. But our best engineers say that number is too low. In fact, it may be as much as $1 billion short. So, we will work with Congress to make sure that is the fund is sufficient to compensate broadcasters for their moves.
Post auction, we may be smaller as an industry, but broadcast television will be even more relevant than we are today.
Everyone wants what we have — our airwaves. But none of our competitors want the same responsibilities that come with being a broadcaster.
It’s worth noting that none of the Internet service providers that buy broadcast spectrum in the upcoming auction will be offering program content to the masses free of charge, which is what public and commercial TV stations do every day.
Nor will the programming be local. A lot of people enjoy catching a movie or show on Netflix or Amazon Prime, but when was the last time you watched a Snowzilla blizzard covered by Netflix? When was the last time an Amber Alert child was rescued by Amazon?
A public TV station like WHUT — owned by the historical black college Howard University in Washington, D.C. — provides immeasurable value in our nation’s capital. Indeed, one could argue that there is no “higher and better use of spectrum” than serving diverse audiences with free and local TV programming for all citizens, and not just to those who can just afford a pay TV package.
We must ensure that diverse audiences are served in a post-auction world. The FCC has an important role to play here. However, the agency has proposed gifting some channels to big companies like Google and Microsoft. Not only could this hurt rural and diverse audiences, but it also sends a clear message to Google that they don’t have to participate in the auction to secure spectrum.
And let’s be clear that none of our friends in the broadband world want public interest obligations that come with being a broadcaster. Nor do they want decency standards that commercial and public broadcasters abide by. Indeed, the business model of most ISPs would collapse under decency rules that local radio and TV broadcasters not only endure, but have embraced.
We will continue to work towards a successful auction that ensures that the broadcast industry not only survives, but thrives after the auction.
Americans deserve, and desire, what broadcasters deliver.
Gordon Smith is president of the National Association of Broadcasters. This article contains excerpts of remarks he made at the Association of Public Television Stations Public Media Summit on the future of broadcasting on Feb. 22 in Washington.