We’ve watched the FCC move rule-neglecting Class A television stations down to the lower-grade LPTV status during the course of 2012, suggesting that LPTVs are an endangered species ahead of incentive auctions. But it turns out the there are government forces working in the service’s favor.
Former Chairman Joe Barton (R-TX) brought up the topic. He noted that many low power television stations faithfully serve their local communities and follow the rules, and their reward should not be getting driven out of business as part of the incentive auction program, or being forced into existence as an internet- or MVPD-based service. In fact, he suggested that many members of the Subcommittee had no idea they were putting the entire LPTV service at risk with incentive auction legislation.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski responded that the statute puts the FCC in a difficult position regarding LPTVs. The Commission is tasked with opening up as much spectrum as possible, and LPTVs have little protection as a matter of the very way their licenses are constructed.
What Genachowski said is that the issue of LPTVs is as yet unresolved. He noted that Congress did not take the step of granting them protection in the form of an upgrade to their license status, and suggested that there should be robust conversation on the matter.
Barton continued to defend LPTV operators, and Genachowski noted that under any circumstances the FCC would preserve as many as possible, and reiterated that a discussion of an LPTV policy was called for.
RBR-TVBR observation: LPTV stations can take a modicum of encouragement from this development. We’ve been following this story from the outset, and this is the first time we’ve heard a full-throated defense of the service from any source not directly affiliated with the LPTV community. The fact that LPTVs received a strong vote of confidence from a federal legislator and learned that preserving as many LPTVs as possible is on the mind of the chairman of the FCC might be the best news the service has received in quite some time.