Is FCC putting the auction cart ahead of the treaty horse?


Canada FlagA group of key legislators has fired off a letter to Acting FCC Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn asking about incentive auctions. They note with concern that the FCC may initiate the auctions prior to having applicable treaties in place with Canada and Mexico.

Of particular concern was an FCC answer to a letter from John Dingell (D-MI) which said that DTV channel allotments were assigned prior to having treaties, and suggesting that this might serve as precedent for the incentive auction process.

The concern is that channel repacking will be hard enough in and of itself – add in the complication of international rights to broadcast on certain channels in border areas and many are worried about continuing public access to local television.

The legislators wrote, “In the event that the Commission does not complete negotiations with Canada and Mexico prior to reassigning broadcast channels, the Commission must ensure that consumers in border areas continue to have access to free over-the-air broadcast signals they currently receive, to the extent mandated by the Act.
Consequently, we would appreciate a response from you outlining your plans to accomplish that objective.”

They noted their support for the overall objectives of the auction, but added, “Nevertheless, we hope to ensure that all Americans retain access to free, over-the-air broadcast signals. These goals are not mutually exclusive and we look forward to continuing to work with you to ensure this realization.”

The members who collaborated on the letter include Anna Eshoo (D-CA), John Dingell (D-MI), Mike Doyle (D-PA), Doris O. Matsui (D-CA), Peter Welch (D-VT), Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), Bobby L. Rush (D-IL) and And Jim Matheson (D-UT).