Given the controversy that has arisen since the FCC first announced its desire to reclaim broadcast spectrum from over-the-air television broadcasters, it comes as no surprise that the agency’s broadband pointman recently attempted to quell broadcasters’ fears. Blair Levin’s interview with Broadcasting & Cable came roughly two weeks after FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski appointed a controversial Distinguished Scholar in Residence who advocates imposing burdensome regulations on television broadcasters that would imperil their viability.
In his interview, Mr. Levin noted that while “he does not think any of the commission’s plans for spectrum reclamation ‘threatens [sic] the future of over-the-air broadcasting…’, he also [said] that broadcasters [sic] own actions and revenue streams do not support retaining all of their spectrum all of the time.” His statement is likely of little comfort to the organizations threatened by spectrum reallocation considering the expense they incurred in the digital transition and their hopes for revitalization through mobile DTV and multichannel digital broadcasts.
As the FCC originally proposed in October, broadcasters would forego over-the-air high-definition (HD) broadcasts and the spectrum needed to offer additional digital services, instead reverting to a single standard-definition (SD) broadcast channel. In return, the broadcasters would receive a portion of the proceeds garnered from subsequent auctions of the relinquished spectrum.
Until the FCC releases its official plan, which is due to Congress by February 17, 2010, the rhetoric surrounding this issue is likely only to intensify, and I suspect no quantity of interviews and appeasing statements from the Commission will settle broadcasters’ worries.
The idiom, “Actions speak louder than words,” certainly holds true in this controversial debate.