NAB recap: “Oversight of Incentive Auction Implementation” Hearing

Tuesday, July 23rd the Communications & Technology Subcommittee of the House Energy & Commerce Committee held a hearing entitled “Oversight of Incentive Auction Implementation.” The witnesses included our own Rick Kaplan representing NAB, as well as Gary Epstein, FCC; Preston Padden, representing the Expanding Opportunities for Broadcasters Coalition; Harold Feld, Public Knowledge; Katherine Ham, T-Mobile; and Joan Marsh, AT&T. Certainly to no one’s surprise, Rick was an excellent witness and ably outlined the concerns that broadcasters have with the FCC’s rulemaking process.

Members of Congress that attended included Chairman Walden (OR-2), Ranking Member Eshoo (CA-18), and Reps. Latta (OH-5), Shimkus (IL-15), Long (MO-7), Ellmers (NC-2), Doyle (PA-14), Waxman (CA-33), Lujan (NM-3), Blackburn (TN-7), Welch (VT-AL), Guthrie (KY-2), Scalise (LA-1), Kinzinger (IL-16), Lance (NJ-7) and Dingell (MI-12).

The hearing touched on a number of issues that directly impacted broadcasters. Chairman Walden spent his entire five minutes of questions on broadcast issues. He spoke to the unique importance of LPTV stations and translators (particularly in the west) and pressed the FCC on how its rules should not unduly harm such services. Gary Epstein stated that the FCC would not “eek out” every last megahertz of spectrum in rural areas at the expense of such low power services, but did not elaborate further. Chairman Walden touched on the concerns surrounding the FCC’s freeze of broadcast modification applications, and also sparked a debate between Rick and Gary Epstein on OET-69 which allowed Rick to expand on NAB concerns surrounding the changes to the methodology. (Specifically, Rick said the changes were “unlawful and unwise.”) Walden indicated he planned to do more follow up on OET-69.

A number of members questioned Gary Epstein about international coordination along the northern and southern borders. Rep. Latta asked about progress on international coordination, and Rep. Dingell also initiated his typical “yes or no” questions on the northern border. Gary Epstein said that the FCC would do all it could to provide certainty, to which Rep. Dingell replied: “my people are not feeling much certainty.” Dingell was clear in this direction to the FCC that it should not relocate broadcasters until negotiations are completed with Canada: “It would be wise to measure twice and cut once” before repacking.

Overall, it was a great hearing that highlighted our core concerns with the FCC’s rulemaking on the incentive auction. The subcommittee is talking about holding a FCC oversight hearing in September with all three sitting FCC Commissioners, so more to come…

Kelly Cole
Executive Vice President, Government Relations
National Association of Broadcasters