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An Opportunity Knocks for Broadcasters

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.

One Response to “An Opportunity Knocks for Broadcasters”

  1. Jeremy Lansman says:

    I listened to your Webinar yesterday. It would have been nice to have a round table with open mic.

    I mentioned that our "TV" station has retransmitted a local radio station for some time. Digital TV is no longer TV. It is digital broadcast.* Adding audio only, or other content not yet imagined should be easy. It takes SO little of the resource to add just an audio stream, yet is risky for the licensee. Few broadcasters will feel comfortable risking all on some other parties content. I suggest the Commission consider sub licenses, so that legal responsibility for content can be shifted to ANY sort of alternative use.

    *TCP/IP includes a broadcast mode. Digital networking includes unicast, multicast, and broadcast. A digital broadcast signal might be used in interesting new ways should people come up with novel use of the broadcast mode.

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