As FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski gets lots of press coverage for his proposal to have broadcasters return blocks of spectrum for broadband usage and then share the auction proceeds with the US Treasury, one veteran broadcaster is telling Wall Street that the real action won’t take place at the FCC.
Barrington Broadcasting CEO Jim Yager was asked about the spectrum repurposing issue in his quarterly conference call with Wall Street bond analysts.
“While the FCC is making a lot of noise – Genachowski, who’s the Chairman of the FCC, you see currently is talking about the need they have for all the spectrum. This issue is going to be resolved in the House and the Senate. It’s not going to be resolved on the floor of the FCC, despite the wireless industry and other’s desire to have the FCC act unilaterally on this. We’re a long, long way away. There have been a lot of headlines in just the last week about Genachowski saying he did an audit. Chairman [Greg] Walden [R-OR] of the House Commerce Committee [Communications Subcommittee] said I don’t think that was quite the right audit we want, so there is going to be some tension between the Congress and the FCC. I don’t look for this to be quickly resolved,” Yager told the Wall Street crowd.
“We have as an industry said if the auctions were voluntary we might go along with auctioning off some of the spectrum. But, boy that is a slippery slope, because you don’t know what repacking may do,” Yager continued. “Really the funny part about this is that the place you could probably do the most repacking is in the small markets like we have – and I don’t mean repacking, but you can get the most spectrum – and that’s not where the problems are. The problems are in the major markets,” he noted. So Yager doesn’t expect anything to happen regarding spectrum for a couple of years or more.
RBR-TVBR observation: As it happens, President Barack Obama was in one of Barrington’s markets last month to beat the drum for Genachowski’s spectrum auction plan, as reported by WLUC-TV, the market’s NBC and Fox affiliate. Somehow we doubt that the wireless companies in Marquette, MI are really having problems with spectrum scarcity.