In a letter, Mike Gravino told House Communication Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) that the LPTV Spectrum Rights Coalition is ready to do more than advocate for the service – it’s prepared to use all legal tools available to it. He notes that LPTV licensees may be liable for an average of $150K in forced costs due to channel repacking.
Gravino noted that it’s not just LPTVs that are compromised by the incentive auction program – TV translators are in the same boat, and the potential $1B in unfunded costs that may be imposed on them works out to an average of $156,250 each.
That is of course a cost that may be borne by surviving stations – and Gravino also notes 100s may lose coverage or be eliminated entirely.
He said the organization already has signed up 383 licensees representing 31 states in just one month’s time.
Here is the text of Gravino’s letter:
Dear Chairman Walden:
The LPTV Spectrum Rights Coalition has recently been organized to defend the legal rights of all 6400+ LPTV and TV Translators during the pre-auction, auction, and channel repack process. In one month we have been joined by over 383 FCC licensees in 31 States which cover more than 41 million viewers with over 150 local and diverse local channels of content. We anticipate by this fall to have members in most all of the States.
Our main concern is the over $1 Billion unfunded mandate the Spectrum Act has put on the 6400+ LPTV/TX licensees, averaging over $156,250 per station during the auction and repack process. With the consensus around the 51-and-down plan, reclaiming as much as 84-MHz across the country, most all LPTV/TX stations will be dramatically affected. This is not a possibility, but a real and present danger to our business survival.
The Spectrum Act did add in the one sentence which said the current rights which LPTV/TX did have would not be changed, but that phrase has enabled the FCC staff to plan to dramatically reduce our service all across the country. It has also enabled a process by which 100’s local and diverse content sources maybe reduced and eliminated.
The Coalition is rapidly working with its’ fast growing list of members to respond to the FCC NPRM process and submit Comments about how the channel repack rules should be written and administered. This is all we can do at the FCC, comment on the rules which could drive many of our members out of business. With this letter, and letters to all of the Subcommittee members, we are starting a dialogue with Congress to see the scope and scale of a “legislative fix” for LPTV/TX in the post-auction operating environment. We are not trying to stop the auction process, but figure out how to survive and prosper in the post-auction.
However, the “Improving the FCC Process” legislation, as it was passed in the House last year and as it is now drafted, will dramatically affect the Spectrum Auction process, in that, the new post-auction FCC rules will cost LPTV/TX far more than the $100 million threshold for new rules. The Coalition would like to explore how to add additional language to the bill so that the 6400+ LPTV/TX licensees have more than one sentence to protect them. The simple solution is that since LPTV/TX licensees pay for their own moves and channel repacks that they be eligible if they choose and can qualify, be repacked with primary status, and all of the rights and responsibilities that status has.
Further, the Coalition is developing a method by which LPTV/TX can be active participants in First-Net. This model has already been modeled and is in active use by one of our members in Salem, Oregon, as they are the only LPTV/TX or any TV station in the country which allows local emergency personnel direct access to the television broadcast.
The Coalition was not formed just to advocate the survival of our members, but to defend their rights with the full force of the legal processes available to them. Our members are also prepared to take to the airwaves in their own defense, both locally in their coverage areas, and nationally. Congress through the Act, and now the FCC through the proposed channel repack rules, are attempting to drive us out of business, and we will not go quietly. We urge the Subcommittee staff and the members to listen to our concerns and proposed legislative fixes.
Director, LPTV Spectrum Rights Coalition