Washington reps ask FCC to protect broadcast television


U.S. CongressChannel repacking in advance of incentive spectrum auctions may be a challenging proposition in any large market, and it is of particular concern in states near international borders. Three representatives from Washington have asked the FCC to make sure citizens in their state do not lose access to free over-the-air broadcast television.

The reps are Jim McDermott (D-WA), Adam Smith (D-WA) and Norm Dicks (D-WA).

“There are 37 full power TV stations in Washington State,” they wrote. “As many as 14 of these could have no place to be relocated when repacking occurs, meaning that they could be forced to cut power and lose viewers. Of the 17 full power stations in the Seattle/Tacoma market, as many as 10 could have no place to go. In Spokane, of the ten stations in that market, four of them could be forced to move and cut their power and their viewership. This could be harmful for the stations and the people who invest in them, but devastating to the hundreds of thousands of people that rely on free, over the air television.”

They urged the FCC to make sure the process is open and transparent, with as much advance notice as possible given to stakeholders. They said it must be open to stakeholder comment, in constant touch with Canadian authorities, and should work closely with both the Washington State Broadcasters Association and the National Association of Broadcasters.

The concluded, “Freeing up frequencies for wireless broadband services is an important policy objective, which we supported. But that objective cannot – and should not – be achieved by depriving residents of television markets along the northern U.S. border of access to the television signals that they have enjoyed for years for free. Depriving these citizens of access to local television programming would do them an enormous disservice and undermine the trust that Congress placed in the commission when it passed the statute earlier this year.”

The letter was dated 12/21/12.