Key broadcasters chat up commissioner on television issues


Executives from Hearst Television, Barrington Broadcasting and Schurz Communications met with Commissioner Robert McDowell in an effort to make sure he is mindful of certain issues when the FCC looks into retransmission consent policy, spectrum hunting and imposition of new spectrum fees.

Meeting on behalf of the National Association of Broadcasters with McDowell and his legal advisor Rosemary Harold were Barrington’s Chris Cornelius, Heart’s David Barrett and Schurz’s Marci Burdick.

On spectrum, they asked that the hunt not turn into broadcast v. broadband, but rather respect both types of communications service. They requested a thorough spectrum inventory. Finally, they stated that NAB was not opposed to spectrum auctions in the TV band, but requested that those who choose not to participate not be subject to any kind of retaliation. They listed possible enhancements to television service and warned against the lack of ability to deliver on the promise of digital broadcast if television stations are packed too tightly into the spectrum band.

The warned that the possibility of charging spectrum fees could be devastating to small broadcasters, precisely the small businesses that the FCC has been trying to bolster in the name of diversity and competition.

Finally, they asked that the Commission’s anticipated review of retrans be a balanced proceeding, which avoids starting with the assumption that the system is somehow broken. They reminded McDowell of the significant investment the broadcast industry makes in local news, emergency info and public affairs programming, and warned that the ability to continue doing this could be damaged if the playing field is tilted too far in the direction of MVPDs.

RBR-TVBR observation: Many of the issues on the table right now are not business v. consumer, they are business v. business. Whereas the first type of conflict tends to cause Washington insiders to choose up teams along party lines, the second type often blurs party lines. It will be important for broadcasters to tell their story to every member of the legislative, administration and regulatory community as they can until these issues are resolved.

Pictured: FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell