US broadcasters challenge FCC over airwaves auction

The National Association of Broadcasters filed a petition to review certain elements of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) planned airwaves auction next year, arguing that the sale would adversely impact TV stations.

The so-called incentive auction will give TV stations that currently own the valuable frequencies the opportunity to voluntarily give up their frequencies to the FCC. The FCC then would repackage them and auction them to wireless carriers, which are clamoring for faster speeds and better services for their devices.

In its review petition filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Monday, the NAB challenged FCC's decision to change the methodology used to predict local television coverage areas and the population served.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler.
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"Under this new methodology, many broadcast licensees, including NAB's members, will lose coverage area and population served during the auction's repacking and reassignment process," the advocacy group for America's broadcasters said in its petition.

The change will hurt viewership of TV stations after the FCC repackages the frequencies or will force many TV stations to take part in the auction, the NAB said.

"The FCC order oversteps congressional mandate and is likely to cause significant harm to broadcast television," said Rick Kaplan, NAB's executive vice president of strategic planning.

The NAB said it does not want to delay the auction and the lawsuit is an attempt to put the auction back on track.

The wireless trade group CTIA said the auction will be "a win for broadcasters, wireless companies and consumers."

"While we would prefer to work together collaboratively to address NAB's concerns rather than resort to litigation, we are hopeful the court addresses these issues quickly and that the NAB adheres to its commitment for an expedited process without unnecessary delays," CTIA said in a statement.

The FCC was not immediately available for comment outside regular U.S. business hours.

By Reuters