Public TV Pow-Wow At The FCC


Why were some of public television’s top leaders speaking with leading FCC officials on Thursday?

Several issues pertaining to local educational and non-commercial broadcast stations were discussed with a host of Commission decision-makers, including Mike O’Rielly.

On March 7, America’s Public Television Stations (APTS) EVP/COO and General Counsel  Lonna Thompson met with the Republican FCC Commissioner; Rachael Bender, Wireless Advisor to Chairman Ajit Pai; and O’Rielly’s Wireless Advisor, Erin McGrath, regarding WT Docket No. 18-120 – “Transforming the 2.5 GHz Band.”

Thompson was joined, via phone, by Vegas PBS GM Tom Axtel, South Carolina Educational Television Commission President/CEO Anthony Padgett, and Detroit Public Television Director of Content and Community Engagement Georgeann Herbert.

The purpose of the meeting: to discuss preserving EBS as an educational resource.

“During the meeting, we stated that public television stations are significant and innovative EBS licensees and have a strong interest in preserving EBS as an educational resource,” writes Todd D. Gray of Gray Miller Persh LLP, the legal counsel for APTS.

Gray made an ex-parte filing with the commission on Friday (3/8).

“We urged that the Commission preserve existing educational eligibility requirements for EBS and use priority filing windows to license remaining EBS ‘white space,'” Stacey Carp, APTS’ Director of Communications, explains to RBR+TVBR.

The licensees of nearly 50 public TV stations today also hold EBS licenses.

As such, APTS members believe “the EBS regulatory model is a success” and that there is “no need to ‘transform’ the 2.5 GHz band.

“The transformation already took place in 2004 when, with significant help from the EBS community working in close coordination with the wireless industry, the FCC transitioned the 2.5 GHz band to accommodate emerging technology, including wireless broadband services,” APTS argued in its filing. “Today, EBS works. The band is successfully operating where licensed. It does not need fixing, it needs finishing.”

APTS adds that the EBS spectrum is not underutilized; that local priority filing windows will enhance education and commercial deployment; and that EBS should not be commercialized.

“The proposal to eliminate educational eligibility requirements so that EBS licensees have the option of selling their licenses to commercial entities may sound like a good idea, but it is not,” APTS says. “The notion that EBS licensees will have the choice to sell or not to sell is illusive. Open eligibility will create a hostile leasing environment for educators who wish to remain EBS licensees. The existing leasing model provides licensees with the opportunity to negotiate ongoing educational benefits, including devices, services and support from commercial operators. With open eligibility, that relationship will dramatically shift. Commercial entities will have the incentive and ability to offer licensees unfavorable sale terms rather than new or renewed leases, cutting off educational benefits under the leasing model.”

Public television representatives also met with Media Bureau Chief Michelle Carey, Audio Division Chief Albert Shuldiner, Associate Bureau Chief Holly Saurer, Policy Division Chief Martha Heller and Media Bureau Attorney Advisor Raelynn Remy to reiterate their support for exempting or reducing the obligations on public broadcasters from the Commission’s rules requiring broadcast licensees to provide public notices of the filings of various applications.