Coalition of Spectrum Willing Highlights Concern over Scoring Stations

Group Seeks Clarification of What FCC Means by 'Big'

The Expanding Opportunities for Broadcasters Coalition met with FCC officials last week, and left still concerned that the FCC would discourage broadcaster participation in the auction by holding to a plan to pay larger broadcasters more than smaller ones.

Such differential pricing according to size or audience, the coalition has said, is not relevant to the price of a station's spectrum. It says only two factors should be considered, 1) the effect of the station's spectrum on the subsequent repacking of other stations after the reverse auction portion of the incentive auction, and 2) the market price as determined by the competitive bids by broadcasters to give up spectrum.

According to coalition executive director Preston Padden in a letter to the commission on Sunday, he is concerned by comments from Wireless Bureau chief Ruth Milkman and others at the meeting that they sill "expressed a desire to retain the flexibility to pay more to 'big' stations and less to 'small' stations.

Padden said that if by 'big' that the FCC might have to pay more for a station that had a big effect on repacking of other stations, that was understandable, but if that still mean according to size or audience, population covered, or enterprise value, then that would be "picking winners and losers" and suggested the FCC might wind up the ultimate loser by reducing the amount of spectrum it was able to reclaim and was already "driving away from the auction the very stations most likely to otherwise consider surrendering their spectrum." That would be the smaller stations in the bigger markets, the markets where the FCC most needs spectrum. "The Coalition urges the Commission to clarify, at the earliest opportunity, that it will not weigh or 'score' a station on any basis other than its preclusive effect on repacking other stations," Padden wrote.

The coalition and others will have a chance to give more input to the commission May 3 when it holds a workshop on its auction band plan.