Broadcaster Lawsuit Could Delay FCC Wireless Spectrum Auction
NEWS ANALYSIS: Broadcasters cry foul over plans to relocate and repackage broadcast channels, claiming reduced access to audiences.The National Association of Broadcasters has filed suit in federal court in an effort to force the Federal Communications Commission to revise the rules for the 2015 spectrum auction. That auction would transfer access to some portions of the radio spectrum currently used for television broadcasts to wireless service providers. The spectrum auction includes two parts, a reverse auction for existing spectrum held by broadcasters and another for the spectrum that's freed up that would go to the wireless companies. The reverse auction would allow broadcasters to give up the spectrum they use in exchange for a cash buyout. Those broadcasters would then go off the air on the relinquished spectrum, making their frequencies available for sale to wireless companies. Broadcasters that do not accept a buyout would then be "repackaged," which means the FCC would change the frequencies over which they broadcast. The portions of the spectrum thus freed up could then be auctioned off to wireless companies.
When Congress passed the law that authorized the spectrum auctions and frequency repackaging, it specifically required the FCC to ensure that broadcasters are not hurt by the changes. Congress also established a fund to pay for the costs of spectrum relocations. This is necessary because changing the broadcast frequency of a television station is expensive and could require a station to buy new transmitters and antennas.