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FCC vote starts spectrum auction process, raises questions

 - Cost reimbursement, coverage areas at risk

The FCC last week adopted a Report & Order to implement the incentive spectrum auction that, in part, casts doubt on whether the agency intends to comply with federal law that provides two key protections for viewers and broadcasters.

At risk is a provision that ensures viewers who currently receive a particular over-the-air broadcast signal will continue to do so after the auction, and another that requires the FCC to reimburse broadcasters that choose not to join the auction for all costs related to repacking stations after the auction.

Concern about preserving stations’ coverage areas stems from the FCC’s adoption of new TVStudy software and methodology in place of the OET-69 methodology the RCC currently uses to determine coverage areas.

Reimbursement concerns arise from the fact that the order fails to treat the $1.75 billion spectrum auction transition reimbursement fund as a budget for repacking, making it likely that costs will exceed that amount and that excess costs will not be eligible for reimbursement.

While the full Report & Order on the effort is pending release, it appears the FCC also is moving to increase the potential for interference with wireless carriers in some markets and reduce the availability of spectrum for wireless microphones used in electronic newsgathering.

Of further concern to Texas broadcasters, the FCC gave no indication that any progress has been made in securing treaty agreements with Mexico (or Canada) as required by law.

Attorney Carly Deckelboim with TAB’s federal legal counsel, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, outlined the major takeaways from the May 15 meeting.

The NAB has established a members-only website to keep broadcasters apprised of related regulatory developments.

Questions?  Contact TAB’s Oscar Rodriguez or call (512) 322-9944.

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