LPTV Leader Holds Pow-Wow With Pai

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On March 4, Michael Gravino, both as the Director of the LPTV Spectrum Rights Coalition and as Managing Broker for Airwaves USA, met with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and Acting Media Advisor Alexander Sanjenis.


What did they discuss?

A notice of ex parte communication in regard to MB Docket No. 18-214‚Äč, GN Docket No.12-268, and MB Docket 17-318 was sent to the FCC on March 11.

In the notice, Gravino shares that he discussed with Sanjenis and Pai, first and foremost, updates and impacts from the incentive auction channel displacement process.

“From the perspective of the Coalition, the fact that more LPTV and TV Translator Stations were not displaced than displaced is good,” Gravino said. Of the 2,100 that applied for new channel construction permits, about 500 have been rejected. They may file again when the filing freeze is lifted, and still may qualify for funding, Gravino added.

But, they will be competing with about 1,800 or more displaced by the auction or repack construction permits.

“What this all means is that the pool which is eligible for relocation funding could be as high as 2,000, which would want to split the $150 million from Congress,” Gravino argued. “It will depend on how many do not meet the second Congressional test of being on air seven of the 12 months before the auction.”

This second test, he adds, could eliminate 20%-40% of those which received new construction permits.

So, Gravino said, “the high could be lowered from 1600 to 1200 which would compete for the funding.”

Also discussed was that the original Phase Zero LPTV and TV translator stations, mostly displaced in the summer and fall of 2017, will have paid for their moves more than two years before getting potentially reimbursed.

Gravino also voiced his concerns about the proposed changes of the national ownership cap. From the Coalition perspective, “it is silly to use any of the UHF discount models at all, and just recognize spectrum for its real value … The current national ownership model does nothing to help LPTV, so busting it up would do no harm, as we are disadvantaged by it.”

He also discussed how the post-auction TV license M&A activity has also included Class As and LPTV, but that the demand to sell “far outstrips the demand to purchase.”

Lastly, LPTV next gen rules and their impacts on current business planning; the “looming T-Band auction” and its potential impact; TV “white space”; and concerns about the FCC’s diversity initiative “not engaging LPTV” were talked about.

“LPTV is the gateway to learning about TV station ownership, and the industry has numerous women owners, co-owners, and family business owners,” Gravino said. “The FCC would be wise to seek out LPTV and Class A owners which could benefit from its diversity initiatives.”