Big TV Versus Big Telecom in Battle for Broadcast Spectrum

While some seem to think our nation is heading toward maximum capacity in broadcast spectrum because of the growing number of mobile devices and high data usage, others say those fears are exaggerated. Either way, as the government plans to auction off broadcast spectrum in an effort to expand wireless services, it pits Big TV against Big Telecom at the Federal Communications Commission and with Congress.

“There’s a buying spree going on in the upper reaches of the TV dial, the largely forgotten universe of UHF stations made up of many mom-and-pop owners who long ago gave up ambition in favor of a mix of home-shopping and reruns like ‘Matlock,’” writes Variety.

The government is encouraging these sales, attempting to entice those floundering stations to quit and “put their spectrum up for auction and share in the proceeds from the sale to wireless firms; stations also have the option to share spectrum or move to another part of the band,” notes the article.

“Congress cleared the outline of the plan last year,” it adds. “An enticement is the potential for an auction to raise as much as $20 billion, with proceeds used to pay for a new wireless public safety network and for deficit reduction. That’s a politically fireproof way to raise revenue without raising taxes.”

But broadcasters are pushing back where they can, concerned that this issue pits them as “old” vs. “new, writes Variety. “The fight over spectrum auctions has been heating up for the past few years, pitting the lobbying orgs of Big Media against Big Telecom in the halls of Congress,” the article explains. Broadcasters worry these sales will adversely affect their business with weakened or interfered with services.

“What gained traction in Congress was the idea that proceeds from the auction would be used to create a broadband public safety network, unprecedented in scope. But the broadcast lobby, as if to show its relevance as well as its efficiency, frequently reminds journalists of the role of stations in covering and alerting the public of natural disasters. NAB noted that during Hurricane Sandy, some mobile networks went dark, but broadcasters were uninterrupted,” writes Variety.

Even so, the plan is to go forth with auctions next year.