Noncom Stations Pitch FCC On Value Of Their Spectrum

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Lonna Thompson, interim CEO and general counsel of the Association of Public Television Stations, met with Federal Communications Commission officials Wednesday to remind them of the value of leaving spectrum in the hands of the noncommercial stations she represents.

Smaller commercial and noncommercial stations in big markets are among those expected to be targeted with an FCC offer to give up some or all of their broadcast spectrum for wireless broadband in exchange for a payout when that spectrum is re-auctioned.

She called it a "touch base" meeting to remind the FCC of the value of spectrum public broadcasters and the community. Also touching base was APTS board chair Rod Bates of Nebraska Educational TV, who provided a first-hand pitch on the value of his spectrum.

"The message we gave the FCC is that we are all in favor of innovation," Thompson told Multichannel News in an interview. She pointed out that public TV was "the first to close caption, first to do descriptive video, first to do HD, first to multicast, first to use satellite systems for distribution." She said that they were "open to ideas" and dialog about maximizing the use of the spectrum, but not at the expense of the service her stations provide including to those who would not immediately benefit from the broadband revolution. "[M]erely saying 'let's transition them all to broadband' isn't the answer because many of the audiences we serve don't have access to broadband," she said. "That may make it a chicken and egg situation, which it is, because they want to deploy broadband, but in the meantime we have to keep in mind that these essential public television services are needed by the public."

Congress, for one, thinks enough of the value of noncommercial HD service to make satellite carriage of those signals on an advanced timetable part of its recently passed satellite license reauthorization bill. Delivering HD, which requires more bandwidth than standard definition, is one of the reasons broadcasters argue it would be tough to give up spectrum.

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