NAB's Smith: We Will Work With FCC For Successful Auction

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NAB president Gordon Smith said Friday that the FCC is still waiting to see inside the "black box" of the FCC's spectrum incentive auction proposal, but that if the FCC chairman thinks there are a number of broadcasters in big cities interested in selling their spectrum, it may be predicated on the "misbegotten" belief that broadcasting is an industry in decline. "That is simply false," he said.

"If there is a stampede coming, we are certainly not hearing any hooves," he said. He said there has been some activity and "some speculators entering the market." Smith said the FCC has not taken a count of how many stations might be offering up spectrum. "What we have heard from our members is how earnestly committed they are to the future of the broadcast business."

"We're in uncharted territory," said Smith of the auction. "We're inferring what this means and how it will work..... If they set the price too low, they may get no volunteers. If they set the price too low, they may get no revenue from wireless broadband. Our focus," he said, "is for it to be transparent as possible and make sure that in the repacking, our members are protected if they choose to stay."

Smith was talking with reporters after the FCC voted to launch it proposed framework for those auctions--actually one auction as the FCC is proposing it--intended to voluntarily reclaim spectrum from broadcasters for re-auction to wireless broadband.

Smith called it a historic day. "There has never been an auction of this magnitude. We recognize that the FCC has a daunting task but we are committed to working constructively with them to insure its success and the protection of those broadcasters who are not volunteers, who remain the focus of our concern."

He said his hope, and the assurance the FCC has given them, is that it will be a transparent process. We're anxious to see that."

Smith alluded to NAB's skepticism about the professed spectrum crunch, given what he said was "all the warehousing and speculation." He said the real crisis looming was the impact of billing by the bit. He said the future has "both signals [broadcast and broadband] marching together to the benefit of the American people." FCC chairman Julius Genachowski had said something similar earlier Friday.

Saying NAB still needed to study it, Smith issued no reply on the FCC's request for comment on whether broadcasters would be given the option of compensation for permitting more interference to their signal, which could be interpreted as paying them to allow lesser quality service to their viewers."We need to look at that," said, and reserved comment until NAB got more information.

The FCC has sought comment on how it should implement Congress' requirement that it make all reasonable efforts to preserve coverage areas. Smith said that NAB was assuming that would follow the DTV transition standard of no more than 2% coverage loss.