LPTV activist presses Wheeler on auction rights


LPTVMike Gravino, head of the LPTV Spectrum Rights Coalition, believes his constituency is being maltreated as the FCC moves forward with incentive auctions, and was able to engage FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler at a recent seminar to press his case.

The occasion was the 11/8/13 LEARN event which was aimed at those wishing to operate as unlicensed entities in the so-called white spaces between local television channels – and in guard bands to be set up as part of the related channel repacking process.

Gravino contends that there needs to be a similar session strictly for the benefit of LPTV and TV translator operators. He notes that the repacking process effectively hits his constituents with an unfunded $1B mandate in the form of moving costs, and does not allow them to participate in the forward auctions of spectrum. This is on top of a long-standing grievance – the lack of must-carry rights on local MVPDs, along with a few others.
Gravino treated the conversation as an ex parte encounter, sent a follow-up email to Wheeler, and provided the email to the public in the interests of full disclosure.

Here it is in its entirely:

Mr. Chairman:

As I mentioned in the hallway this morning, LPTV licensees, including our TV translator cousins, need a LEARN session of our own. We are 74% of all FCC broadcast television licenses, we will be the most affected party in the auction process since we have a collective $1 billion unfunded mandate to move channels and are not allowed to sell in the forward auction, and we are being squeezed for the remaining channel space by the unlicensed users. Further, we are being denied flexible use service waivers so that we can deploy today new transmission systems for broadband solutions. And our business model is not allowed to prosper since we do not have MVPD carriage rights or mandated rights to negotiate retransmission fees.

I asked the Auction Task Force early this past summer for an LPTV LEARN session and they said there was not time. I petitioned the Acting Chairman’s office but they did not schedule a session. So now we request that you intervene. All we want before the rule making is made is for our part of the broadcast industry to be able to share in an open forum how the auction process will affect us, both good and bad.
This is not about LPTV being able to be auction eligible. Although if we were, we would provide substantial competition in the forward auction, and help to lower the price the government has to pay for the spectrum. We estimate the savings to the government to be around $5 billion! We know unless the FCC goes back to Congress and asks for LPTV to be in the auction that will not happen.

What we want to show, and would have shown today in the unlicensed spectrum LEARN session is that there are enough LPTV licensees and construction permits outstanding that there will be no room in the top 50 DMA for a large unlicensed band. LPTV licensees already have the right of displacement and we can move in to fill up the remaining spectrum. But this fact was not able to be heard in the session.

So I urge you to request that the Auction Task Force talk with the Coalition and other LPTV parties to schedule an LPTV LEARN session before the rule making is made.”

Respectfully submitted
Mike Gravino