Written by: Tom Rieland
Date: December 11, 2009

rooftop-antenna-24-elementAll of the broadcast stations across the country went digital-only this past year and millions were spent in the process by the feds and stations.
NOW, the FCC is taking some steps toward examining whether the broadcast spectrum should be reallocated for wireless broadband. This could, in essence, destroy or greatly restrict over the air broadcasting and could mean that any television watching in the future could be pay-only via cable or satellite.

In its five-page notice of inquiry, the FCC said it will consider “the value that the United States puts on free, over-the-air television,” as well as “market-based mechanisms for television broadcasters to contribute to the broadband effort any spectrum in excess of that which they need.”

This could restrict stations like WOSU, for instance, from carrying multiple digital channels. The WOSU lineup includes The Ohio Channel, WOSU Plus and our primary WOSU HD channel. It will also hamstring our ability to serve Ohio with statewide emergency broadcasts via our digital spectrum and restrict our move into new technologies, like Mobile DTV (see previous post).

The FCC said its inquiry grew out of the efforts to formulate a national broadband plan. “Parties have expressed concern…and have urged the Commission to make available more spectrum for commercial uses,” the notice of inquiry states.

The agency is seeking comment by Dec. 21 on these issues, including which factors should be considered when comparing the benefits of using spectrum for over-the-air broadcasting as opposed to wireless computing. “What would be the impact to the U.S. economy and public welfare if the coverage of free over-the-air broadcast television was diminished to accommodate a repacking of stations to recover spectrum?” the FCC asked.

The National Association of Broadcasters said Wednesday that it intends to file written comments before the deadline. “Broadband deployment to unserved areas is a worthy goal, and broadcasters believe we can help the FCC accomplish its mission without stifling growth opportunities of free and local TV stations and the millions of viewers that we serve,” Executive Vice President Dennis Wharton said in a statement.

Representatives of public television stations are also forming a coalition to comment on the FCC inquiry. Of course, there are powerful interest groups behind this call to reallocate broadcast spectrum and restrict free TV.
Our surveys in Columbus showed that over 150,000 households receive their local television without any subscription service.

Some proposals being floated by the FCC would eliminate high-definition broadcasting and multicasting altogether. Why on earth did we spend millions to get to digital television and provide HD and multiple free broadcast services, just to have the FCC come behind this process and take away the spectrum that stations rely on to deliver these services?

Want more on this?

Links to mediapost and Broadcasting and Cable Magazine articles.