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Aiding Japan Disaster Relief Fundraising Efforts

Posted March 16th, 2011 by William Lake - Chief of the Media Bureau

While there have been other disasters during our lifetime, few are of the magnitude Japan is experiencing.  Over the weeks and months to come, much help will be needed to rebuild the lives of those affected by the continuing devastation the earthquake and tsunami have caused.  To assist with Japan relief efforts, the Federal Communications Commission today announced procedures on how noncommercial educational (NCE) stations can request a waiver to conduct on-air fundraising in support of these efforts.

The Commission’s rules generally prohibit NCEs from on-air fundraising on behalf of any entity other than the station itself.  However, the Commission has previously granted waivers for limited fundraising programs or for station appeals for disasters such as Hurricanes Andrew and Katrina, the Haiti 2010 earthquake, and the September 11th terrorist attack, among others.  Stations are already requesting waivers and we look forward to granting as many as we can in support of this important cause.

More information can be found in the public notice issued today.

Posted in Public Notices Media Bureau
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Bureau Waiver Fosters Innovation and Competition in the Mobile DTV Marketplace

Posted July 27th, 2010 by William Lake - Chief of the Media Bureau

The Media Bureau’s recent decision to waive some of the tuner requirements for Mobile DTV devices not only gives manufacturers greater flexibility in how they design and market these new receivers, it ensures the devices can be in the hands of consumers in  time for the 2010 holiday season.  Mobile DTV, or MDTV, is a kind of television service designed for use on-the-go instead of in a single location.

Current FCC rules require that all television receivers have the ability to get both digital and analog signals.  Although full-power television stations stopped broadcasting in analog last year, the analog broadcast standard remains in use by some low-power broadcasters.  Until the requirement is removed, television manufacturers must ask the Commission’s approval if they want to produce a device without an analog tuner. 

A group of Mobile DTV manufacturers recently asked for this approval which, among other things, would eliminate their having to produce a potentially larger, heavier and pricier device that uses more power.  We promptly approved their request, furthering the Commission’s commitment to foster innovation and competition in the marketplace. 

Where the service is available, consumers will be able to watch live MDTV on compliant netbooks, smartphones and portable TVs in their cars.  Many MDTV devices also will be able to receive standard television.  Look on the packaging to see whether a particular model receives MDTV signals only or if it also gets nationwide standard DTV signals.  The device will not only provide news and entertainment while on the move, it will be another way to receive critical information in times of emergency.

Posted in Media Bureau

An Opportunity Knocks for Broadcasters

Posted April 29th, 2010 by William Lake - Chief of the Media Bureau

The Commission’s proposal to invite voluntary participation by TV broadcasters in a spectrum exchange is an opportunity knocking at their door.  Broadcasters who are strapped for capital may find that answering that knock will be just what they need to kick their performance up to the next level. 

Many – though not all – broadcasters find themselves today to be capital constrained as they contemplate taking advantage of the many potential benefits of the DTV transition.  Whether they seek to develop new digital content, expand their new media platforms, or exploit new technologies that enable transmission of two HDTV streams on a 6 MHz channel, these broadcasters may find that they are “spectrum poor” – their scarcest resource is not spectrum but the capital needed to make those improvements.  To help broadcasters be all that they can be, ways need to be found to help them get that capital. 

A voluntary spectrum exchange offers these broadcasters a chance to get the needed capital infusion to make the investments that will position them to serve their communities even better going forward.  The Commission has yet to work out the details of such a voluntary program, and broadcasters’ input to that process will be key.  But a broadcaster is likely to have the option of contributing half of a 6 MHz channel and sharing spectrum with another station that has done the same, or – Congress willing – to contribute a 6 MHz channel to an incentive auction in which the broadcaster will share in the auction proceeds.  Either way, a broadcaster will be able to use the capital thus generated to jump to an improved business model in its continued broadcast activities, making it a stronger contender in the multimedia ecosystem that is evolving daily.  Innovative spectrum-sharing arrangements should create new opportunities for minority and niche broadcasters to prosper.

Done right, these steps can truly be a “win-win-win”… for broadcasters, consumers, and broadband users alike.  I will spend the next few months working with the other members of the Commission’s Spectrum Task Force to try to make that happen.  We’ll have many operational and procedural features to work out.  I hope we can continue the many constructive dialogues that have begun with all of the affected parties.  Broadcasters who want to explore opportunities to position themselves for greater success in the future will find that we want to help them do just that.

Posted in Media Bureau
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