FCC sets the table for channel sharing


FCCThe FCC took what Commissioner Robert McDowell called a baby step toward incentive auctions in the television band, Commissioner Mignon Clyburn praised the speed with which the step was taken, and Chairman Julius Genachowski reminded that there’s lots more to come.

In a nutshell, the FCC set up the mechanisms by which television broadcasters that would not mind getting a piece of the pie when auctions are held, want to nevertheless stay in the broadcast business, and are willing to stay in business with a smaller facility, can team up with another like-minded broadaster.

In essence, two companies holding a total of 12 MHz of bandwidth – two channels – would relinquish one channel and share the other.

The FCC followed two guiding principles in setting up the program – making sure it is entirely voluntary, and making sure it is as flexible as possible.

To the latter end, broadcasters will have as much latitude as possible in creating their channel sharing deals.

An important aspect of the arrangement is the preservation of must-carry rights going forward. Although two broadcasters will be on one channel, each will retain its own separate license along with all the rights and privileges that adhere to the license. They will of course also be held to all of the responsibilities that adhere to the license.

Class A television stations are included in the provisions.

The report and order passed on a unanimous 3-0 vote.