It has been reported that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has given two TV stations permission to share the same channel, i.e. the same spectrum wavelength. The two Los Angeles “test” stations actually asked the commission to be allowed to share airwaves to see if doing so would cause the quality of their signals to become deteriorated. KJLA-TV, which is a commercial television station, has teamed up with KLCS-TV, a non-commercial station and they will be spearheading the bold move as part of an FCC plan to take back spectrum from local broadcasting television stations.
The experiment, if successful, will enable the “saved” airwaves to be sold off to wireless companies. Steve Largent, who is the president and chief executive of Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA); the branch of the wireless industry who lobby congress; has said that the actual spectrum is a limited and precious commodity and that the idea of channel sharing was a triple win.
The idea of freeing up more airwaves would benefit not just broadcasters and wireless providers, but, consumers would also benefit according to Largent. The FCC agree and they will be closely following the test to see if it lives up to the expectation. It does seem to be a winning combination for all concerned. Although initially there has not been a lot of information on how local stations will specifically benefit.
Apparently the FCC see this as a money making venture. One that could net around $25 billion. The commission have stated that they intend to take the money they make from auctioning off the released spectrums to aid law enforcement and public safety workers. The money would go toward building a new national network for the two groups.
Now that the FCC has given the two TV stations permission to share the same channel; there are those who actually question the supposition that there is a finite amount of spectrum and that it is running out. The National Association of Broadcasters; who lobby for the local stations who will be affected by this test; say that on the business side of this scheme, there will be hard contract issues that will need to be looked at.
While the large stations will most likely not opt to participate in the scheme, smaller stations, which include most public service television stations may queue up to take part in the new wave of broadcasting. A former television network executive said that the participants would still be able to broadcast and they would be getting a “big check” as well.
The individual who made the “big check” statement is Preston Padden, a former network executive for Fox and Disney. Padden is also on the look out for small stations who want to join this new scheme. Thus far, there have not been too many takers in the spectrum auction idea.
According to many broadcasters, there is no spectrum shortage and they seem to view this exercise as just a chance to sell broadcast spectrum to wireless companies. Padden himself has come under fire from Washington quarters amid claims that he and the new scheme have been funded by the wireless communications industry.
Padden has denied this and said that the allegations were “completely made up” and ridiculous. Regardless of who is footing the bill for this test, it will still go ahead. The two TV stations that the FCC gave permission to share the same channel are apparently eager to try the scheme out. It appears that out of the potential $25 billion that the spectrum has been valued at television stations could get a share valued at $1.75 billion.
By Michael Smith