November 13, 2014
ATBA says more interest is being paid to the Spectrum Auction after ITU discussions of LPTV/Translators
Geneva Switzerland –Louis Libin, Executive Director of the Advanced Television Broadcasting Alliance addressed the ITU WPA-6 Terrestrial Broadcasting Delivery Conference at the International Telecommunications Union in Geneva Switzerland today. Libin presented a document titled “MITIGATING THE IMPACTS OF MAJOR SPECTRUM REASSIGNMENTS ON LPTV AND TV TRANSLATOR STATIONS.”
“The bottom line is that the plight of LPTV (Low-Power Television) and Translator services is before the International community,” according to Louis Libin, ATBA Executive Director. “The Incentive Spectrum Auction is viewed in the U.S. as a very important and ground-breaking event that the International community is very interested in the solutions that come forth to prevent the loss of services such as LPTV and Translators.”
Libin discussed in the document the benefits of the LPTV and TV Translator Services with an overview provided as an explanation of LPTV and TV Translators services including the history. A presentation was included on methods to minimize interference to current LPTV and TV Translator service and to determine the steps needed to avoid the termination of low-power television stations or television translator stations in the frequencies remaining for broadcast television was included as well as an introduction to basic Interference requirements for LPTV and TV Translator Stations and their secondary status in the United States. And finally, this document provided an opening for discussions on mitigation factors, including the use of “optimal” software for spectrum re-allocation and the associated technical assumptions. In addition, the document included definitions of acceptable interference criteria and the use of more spectrally efficient new technologies are being investigated, including the Single Frequency Network using newest technologies.
“The Advanced Television Broadcast Alliance continues to be encouraged by the increased attention being paid to the important services that both low-power stations and translators provide in this country,” says Rod Payne, ATBA Executive Board Chairman and LPTV station owner. “The leadership of the ATBA is recognized by not only experts in this country, but those in others nations as well, as being the go to source for the real issues at stake in the spectrum auction. There must be increased pressure put on the FCC to not only document their need for reclaiming as much spectrum as they seem to feel is needed as well as to protect the vital broadcast services provided to so many in the U.S. through low-power stations and translators.”
The ITU WG6 Conference continues through the next two days in Geneva. ITU is the leading United Nations agency for information and communication technology. For nearly 150 years, ITU has coordinated the shared global use of the radio spectrum, promoted international cooperation in assigning satellite orbits, worked to improve communication infrastructure in the developing world, and established the worldwide standards that foster seamless interconnection of a vast range of communications systems. From broadband networks to new-generation wireless technologies, aeronautical and maritime navigation, radio astronomy, satellite-based meteorology and converging fixed-mobile phone, Internet and broadcasting technologies, ITU is committed to connecting the world.
November 12, 2014
Washington DC /November 12, 2014 – The Advanced Television Broadcasting Alliance (ATBA) last week delivered responses to questions to Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Emeritus Joe Barton’s additional questions for the record relating to the July 24, 2014 Subcommittee hearing on the LPTV and Translator Act of 2014.
“The ATBA is pleased to continue the important dialogue regarding the need for a legislative solution to assist LPTV and translator stations struggling with the uncertainty caused by the FCC’s incentive auction,” according to Louis Libin, ATBA Executive Director. “We so appreciate Chairman Walden and Chairman Emeritus Barton’s continued support for these efforts.”
The Response to Additional Questions is listed below.
Responses to Additional Questions for the Record by The Honorable Joe Barton Louis Libin, Executive Director, Advanced Television Broadcast Alliance
- It is known that US manufacturers of equipment for LPTV and TV translator stations are suffering serious financial losses because of uncertainty about the fate of the LPTV and translator channels in the auction. Two of these manufacturers are Larcan and Axcera. Under financial pressure arising from marketplace doubts about the future for small TV stations, both have recently closed their US facilities with the loss of many jobs.
Without some legislative protection for small TV stations, is it true that the auctions are likely to cause loss of not only TV jobs but loss of many good manufacturing and engineering jobs in America?
The FCC’s ongoing Incentive Auction proceedings have created growing uncertainty in the broadcast industry that has slowed the purchasing of broadcast equipment to an all-time low. Not since 2009 has the market been so depressed and so little spent on broadcast and related products. The FCC’s actions have caused most TV stations to significantly reduce capital expenditures and to delay wherever possible the purchase of broadcast equipment, in particular transmission products and related ancillaries.
We have witnessed the devastating impact of the Inventive Auction over the last 12 months on broadcast manufacturers. U.S.-based manufacturers such as Acrodyne, Axcera, Dielectric, Modulation Sciences and Larcan have all been dramatically affected to the point where they have closed operations and no longer manufacture any broadcast equipment. Dielectric has since re-opened but with a much smaller workforce. The job loss is not just confined to the several hundred engineers who work directly for these companies; rather, the impact is felt by the large number of people who provide services to the closed factories. For each engineer, there is likely a “times ten” multiple of people impacted by these losses. These factory closures not only reduce the available domestic suppliers but weaken the possibility of further U.S. innovation in this market segment. U.S. transmission product manufacturers were once recognized as world leaders in broadcast technology and exported many hundreds of millions of dollars of transmission equipment around the world.
Due to the lack of demand, even foreign manufacturers in the U.S. such as Screen Service, Elettronika and DMT have ceased domestic operations. Without the requirement of TV transmitters, transmission lines, and RF components such as combiners and filters and antennas, we estimated that many thousands of U.S. workers would lose their jobs, and the value of American expertise and leadership in this field will be lost forever.
Over the last three years, sales for most existing TV transmission product manufacturers have dropped by at least 75 percent. The average sales over the last 20 years of RF products are approximately $600M/year, of which at least 20-30 percent came from exports. Today, it is estimated that sales of broadcast transmission products for the last two to three years has plummeted to less than $150M/year. Sales are expected to fall even further in 2015 and 2016. Further reduction in sales of broadcast transmission products will inevitably put more companies out of business, result in thousands of jobs lost, and, worse still, minimize the potential of any further exports of U.S.-manufactured RF products.
If there are fewer U.S. companies to provide broadcast transmission equipment, then this will significantly impact the possibility of what the FCC wants: a short-term re-packing of the spectrum. Even today, a significant re-pack cannot possibly be accomplished in the time currently forecasted; however, if many more companies go out of business, it will almost make any re-pack near impossible. If stations cannot purchase new equipment in a timely manner, if equipment cannot be re-tuned by experts, and if products cannot be installed in a timely manner, the re-pack will fail due to lack of resources, or in a worst case scenario, will put hundreds of TV stations out-of-business.
Without a clear understanding of how and when the re-pack will happen and to whom it will impact, most broadcast transmission equipment manufacturers will not be able to recover, with the consequent further loss of jobs, loss of exports, and loss of a world leading U.S. industry. Legislative protection is needed to prevent these dire consequences.
- The Federal Communications Commission is protecting full power stations in the auction, but they have not offered any protections to low power stations. Can you please explain the difference between full power stations and low power stations? Do you believe that viewers really know the difference? Who are these viewers?
Low Power Television (LPTV) stations operate at much lower power levels and typically serve much smaller coverage areas than full power stations. LPTV service was created to provide greater diversity in free over-the-air television and fill a void in communities that were not fully covered by full power broadcasting.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) originally established LPTV service to enhance diversity and to achieve full utilization of the TV broadcast spectrum. The nature of full power television broadcasting demanded that the FCC require a significant geographical separation of hundreds of miles to prevent the signals of television stations operating on the same channel from interfering with each other. These requirements left gaps in the spectrum that provided an opportunity for smaller or lower power TV stations to operate without interfering with full power stations. LPTV stations were also created for niche broadcasting to address the need of minorities, women, and special interest groups, and for broadcasting in rural areas where full power stations were not able to serve the communities effectively. The ownership of LPTV stations is also diverse; for example, females own approximately 15 percent of LPTV stations.
LPTV service was designed to “fill in the gaps,” so, unlike full power TV, interference protection could not be guaranteed to LPTV operators. LPTV stations are “secondary” to full power stations – LPTV stations cannot cause interference to full power stations and cannot protest interference they receive from full power stations. The FCC never intended for LPTV to be secondary to wireless services.
Most full power stations are owned by large corporations or other institutions, while a large portion of LPTV broadcasters are “mom and pops” – hometown businesses that are serving their communities, providing hyper-local programming including civic affairs, local church services, weather alerts and unique programming for cultural minorities, linguistically isolated audiences, and people of faith. For example, CFNT-TV in Wichita Falls, Texas covers a target community of 100,000 and offers countless hours of public service announcements and local information programs featuring local non-profits and more. Likewise, in California’s Bay Area, more than 300,000 Filipino residents have access to local news and feature programs in both the Tagalog and English languages on the LPTV FilAm Network.
From the perspective of the viewer, other than the unique hyper-local and community-specific programming that is offered, there is no difference at all between low power and full power stations. Translators that carry major network affiliates far into isolated rural areas are indistinguishable from full power stations from the viewer’s perspective. Viewers receive LPTV and translator stations using the same receivers and antennas they use to receive full power stations.
The LPTV industry is just now getting back on its feet from the “digital repack and transition.” These “mom and pop” stations had to spend, in some cases, on the order of hundreds of thousands of dollars for new transmitters, antennas and broadcast infrastructure to conform to the digital standard. Many others had to move out of the way for a full power station and had to spend even more money filing for a new frequency.
More than 5,000 LPTV and TV translator stations across the country are serving consumers today. But the uncertainty created by the FCC’s actions is preventing new investment in digital upgrades and new stations. Viewers do not know that the LPTV stations and translator stations they watch may simply vanish and never be seen again if they are eliminated by the FCC.
October 7, 2014
If you are old enough you probably remember a time when being able to view television was free. All you needed was to be near enough to an area transmitting television signals and have an antenna mounted on the outside of your house. In some areas, even the outside antenna wasn’t necessary and the old boxy television sets had antennas called “rabbit ears” perched on top of them. You could get all the network stations and you paid absolutely nothing. Air time was paid for by the advertisers. [Read More…]
October 3, 2014
The former Republican chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee and the current ranking member of its Communications Subcommittee have asked the Government Accounting Office to study the impact of the FCC’s incentive auction on low-power TV stations and translators. Read more:http://www.broadcastingcable.com/news/washington/reps-seek-gao-study-auction-impact-lptv-translators/134464
Scenarios include 84 MHz and 126 MHz auctionedWASHINGTON—Lawmakers are asking investigators what next year’s spectrum incentive auction will do to low-power TV stations and the audiences they serve. Reps. Joe Barton (R-Texas) and Anna G. Eshoo (D-Calif.), ranking member of the Communications and Technology Subcommittee, have penned a letter to the Government Accountability Office requesting a study on the issue. Low-power TV stations and translators will not be allowed to participate in the auction, nor are they guaranteed a channel when it’s over.
– See more at: http://www.tvtechnology.com/article/lawmakers-ask-for-gao-lptv-auction-impact-study/272632#sthash.7YmlzpO0.dpuf
October 1, 2014
Broadcaster participation in the incentive auction is strictly voluntary. Communicating clearly and effectively to broadcasters about the economic potential of the incentive auction is critical to its overall success.
Washington, D.C. – Today FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced that an information package entitled Incentive Auction Opportunities For Broadcasters is being sent to the owners of all full power and Class A broadcast stations that Congress determined to be eligible to participate in the incentive auction. The information package was prepared for the FCC by the investment firm Greenhill and Co. Inc. and is designed to assist broadcasters in their analysis of the opportunities afforded by the incentive auction. The package describes how the incentive auction will work and reviews the flexible multiple bidding options for broadcasters. It also includes FCC staff estimates of high end compensation that could be paid for broadcast spectrum rights in each market, and a letter from the IRS providing guidance on the tax implications of the incentive auction.
Due to the voluntary nature of the incentive auction, each broadcaster will make the decision about whether to participate based on its own assessment of its financial and business interests. Given the complexity and financial scope of the auction, the decision whether to participate is analogous to the decision faced by potential investors in large, complex transactions. The Commission therefore contracted with Greenhill and Co., an investment firm with longstanding expertise in transactions of this sort, to prepare an information package to assist broadcasters in their analysis of the auction and the options it presents.
In a letter to station owners that accompanies the information package, Chairman Wheeler wrote, “I believe the incentive auction is an unparalleled business opportunity for broadcasters. I hope you give careful consideration to the economic potential that it offers you.”
Highlights from the information package include the following:
- The FCC has the sole ability to unlock spectrum value through the reorganization of the UHF band that cannot be matched by individual private sales or leases.
- Multiple bidding options offer significant flexibility to broadcasters including the option to relinquish their spectrum and remain on the air through channel sharing. Initial participation in the auction only commits broadcasters to accept the opening bid price.
- Robust participation from all sized markets is key to the incentive auction’s success. Due to the “daisy chain” nature of interference, mid- and smaller size markets will be able to derive substantial value for their spectrum usage rights.
- Estimated high end compensation values of what broadcasters in each market could be paid in an optimal scenario that were generated by FCC staff using a methodology similar to the auction methodology currently under development.
- The estimated high end compensation for an individual station ranges from several million dollars to hundreds of millions of dollars, with some of the highest estimates being in mid-size and smaller markets. Of course, the actual prices broadcasters will receive will only be determined in the auction itself.
- The IRS letter describes the Federal income tax provisions most likely to be relevant to compensation received by broadcasters whose bids are selected in the incentive auction and relocation reimbursements to stations that are repacked as part of the auction.
To accompany the release of the information package, the Incentive Auction Task force has updated its Learn Everything About Reverse Auctions Now webpage (www.FCC.gov/LEARN) to include information for broadcasters potentially interested in participating in the incentive auction. A complete version of the information package prepared for the FCC by Greenhill, the IRS guidance, and Chairman Wheeler’s letter to broadcasters are available there as well.
September 29, 2014
Looking ahead to the FCC’s October Open Meeting, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler hopes to start a proceeding that will settle interference prediction issues and look at ways to preserve as much LPTV/translator service as possible.
IN a blog post, Wheeler said, “Perhaps the most notable spectrum innovation being advanced by the Commission is the world’s first voluntary incentive auction, which will use market forces to repurpose spectrum in the TV band so that the spectrum can be used by wireless providers.”
Read more at http://rbr.com/wheeler-looking-to-predict-interference-protect-lptv/#9jAWsc86VqPPzOYd.99
September 24, 2014
This past week, The Alliance and NAB met again with the Spectrum Incentive Auction Taskforce. Click here to view – ATBA ex parte FILED Sept 23
September 18, 2014NEW YORK ― Juggling the demands for wireless devices―such as microphones, cameras and airborne video feeds―at big media-saturated events is something of an art. As the FCC squeezes broadcasters into a reduced spectrum, there’s less “white space” available to meet wireless requirements and even greater demand for the frequency coordinator’s art – See more at: http://www.tvtechnology.com/article/rf-coordination-qa-with-louis-libin/272487#sthash.co6GTS5S.dpuf
July 25, 2014
ATBA Testifies Before House Communications and Technology Subcommittee on Behalf of LPTV and TV Translator Broadcasters and Viewers
WASHINGTON DC – July 24, 2014/ Louis Libin, executive director of the Advanced Television Broadcasting Alliance (ATBA) testified before the House Communications and Technology Subcommittee on behalf of Low Power Television (LPTV) Broadcasters and Viewers. Today’s hearing on the proposed LPTV and Translator Preservation Act of 2014 is a significant step in the process to inform the FCC and the Congress that LPTV and Translators are important to the communications infrastructure of our country.
LPTV service was created in the early 1980’s to enhance diversity by allowing more unique “voices” to provide free, over-the-air television service. More than 5,000 LPTV and Translator stations provide television service to tens of millions of Americans. In many places, these stations are the only broadcast television service available, and in many other cases, they provide communities their only access to the affiliates of major broadcast networks.
“A third or more of LPTV and Translator stations are now at risk of being shut down by the FCC as it conducts the incentive auction,” testified Libin. “The FCC could eliminate LPTV and translator stations just for the sake of running the auction faster or with less precise calculations, or for the sake of completing the auction in less than half of the ten years Congress authorized. And that is what the FCC is doing. It has adopted rules that run the auction at a breakneck speed with, literally, no consideration at all of the impact on citizens served by LPTV and translator services. The rules reallocate LPTV spectrum to wireless carriers without assigning any value at all to the LPTV and translator services that would be eliminated.”
The Advanced Television Broadcasting Alliance is an industry organization comprised of low power television broadcasters, translators, full power television broadcasters and allied industry organizations and companies. The goal of the Alliance is to preserve and promote the efficient and effective use of all television broadcast spectrum. Visit www.BroadcastingAlliance.org for more information and to join.
View the hearing here. View
Testimony of Louis Libin
Executive Director, Advanced Television Broadcasting Alliance
House Committee on Energy and Commerce
Subcommittee on Communications and Technology
Legislative Hearing on the Anti-Spoofing Act, the LPTV and Translator Act,
and the E-LABEL Act
July 24, 2014
SUMMARY OF MAJOR POINTS
• LPTV service was created to enhance diversity by allowing more unique “voices” to provide free, over-the-air television service. More than 5,000 LPTV and translator provide television service to tens of millions of Americans. In many places, these stations are the only broadcast television service available, and in many other cases, they provide communities their only access to the affiliates of major broadcast networks. LPTV and translator services are “secondary” to full power broadcast services: they may not cause interference to full power stations and must accept interference from full power stations.
• A third or more of LPTV and translator stations are now at risk of being shut down by the FCC because of the manner in which it has decided to conduct the broadcast incentive auction.
• The 2012 Spectrum Act expressed a fundamental principle about spectrum use: that spectrum allocations should reflect market demand. But the FCC’s approach to the auction does not reflect that core principle. The FCC has is giving no consideration at all to the value of the service provide by LPTV and translator services. Because the FCC does not have to share proceeds of the auction with LPTV or translator stations, those stations are simply “free” spectrum in the eyes of the FCC. From the perspective of the auction itself, there is no cost to eliminating LPTV and translator service.
• The FCC could cancel hundreds or even thousands of LPTV and translator licenses even if doing so would not generate a single dollar in additional revenue for the auction. The FCC could eliminate LPTV and translator stations just for the sake of running the auction faster or with less precise calculations, or for the sake of completing the auction in less than half of the ten years Congress authorized.
• Far from a market mechanism, the FCC approach is a pointless, tragic destruction of value, jobs, diversity, localism and rural service. The FCC could shut down thousands of LPTV and translator stations to give wireless carriers spectrum in rural areas that they do not need and likely will not use.
• While more work is needed, we greatly appreciate Chairman Emeritus Barton’s work on the LPTV and Translator Preservation Act, which is an important first step.
Chairman Walden, Ranking Member Eshoo, and distinguished members of the Subcommittee, my name is Louis Libin. I am the Executive Director of the Advanced Television Broadcasting Alliance, which is comprised of hundreds of low-power television (“LPTV”) broadcasters, owners and operators of translators, and allied industry organizations and companies.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to provide testimony regarding the impact of the planned broadcast incentive auctions on LPTV stations, translators and boosters. In particular, I appreciate the efforts of Chairman Emeritus Barton to develop a bill, the LPTV and Translator Preservation Act, which will require the FCC to consider the great benefits of LPTV and translator stations, rather than indiscriminately eliminating their licenses without any consideration of the value these stations provide to under-served communities and population segments.
About LPTV and Translator Service
LPTV service was created to enhance diversity by allowing more unique “voices” to provide free, over-the-air television service. LPTV stations operate with lower power and service smaller areas than full power stations. LPTV stations address the needs of minorities, women, ethnic communities, the elderly, children and other underserved populations. They also broadcast in rural areas where full power stations sometimes are not commercially viable.
Television translators are technically just like LPTV stations. But instead of originating programming, they extend the reach of broadcast stations into rural and geographically isolated areas that are not adequately covered by a full power signal.
More than 2,000 LPTV stations and more than 3,000 translators provide television service to tens of millions of Americans. In many places, these stations are the only broadcast television service available, and in many other cases, they provide communities their only access to the affiliates of major broadcast networks. Many translators were built and are operated by local communities to ensure that those communities have access to broadcast television.
LPTV and translator services are “secondary” to full power broadcast services: they may not cause interference to full power stations and must accept interference from full power stations.
Impact of FCC Incentive Auction on LPTV and Translator Stations
A third or more of LPTV and translator stations are now at risk of being shut down by the FCC as it conducts the incentive auction. Many more may shut down because they cannot afford the cost of transitioning to a new channel. Because of the way translators operate, the loss of a license for one translator could mean 10, 20 or more other translators cannot be operated economically. So the full impact is likely to be far worse than the simple number of translators eliminated.
As you know, in 2012 Congress authorized the FCC to conduct an “incentive auction” of broadcast spectrum. Willing broadcast stations could relinquish their licenses in exchange for a share of the proceeds of an auction of new wireless broadband licenses. The 2012 Spectrum Act expressed a fundamental principle about spectrum use: that spectrum allocations should reflect market demand.
In June of this year, the FCC released its first significant order describing how it intends to implement the broadcast incentive auctions. Unfortunately, that order does not reflect the core principle of allocations according to market demand and is driven by reasons not fully attributable to the intent of Congress. The FCC has adopted rules that give no consideration at all to the value of the service provided by LPTV and translator services. Because the FCC does not have to share proceeds of the auction with LPTV or translator stations, those stations are simply “free” spectrum in the eyes of the FCC. From the perspective of the auction itself, there is no cost to eliminating LPTV and translator service.
Under the FCC’s auction rules the FCC could cancel hundreds or even thousands of LPTV and translator licenses even if doing so would not generate a single dollar in additional revenue for the auction. The FCC could eliminate LPTV and translator stations just for the sake of running the auction faster or with less precise calculations, or for the sake of completing the auction in less than half of the ten years Congress authorized.
And that is what the FCC is doing. It has adopted rules that run the auction at a breakneck speed with, literally, no consideration at all of the impact on citizens served by LPTV and translator services. The rules reallocate LPTV spectrum to wireless carriers without assigning any value at all to the LPTV and translator services that would be eliminated.
This is not a market mechanism. It is a pointless, tragic destruction of value, jobs, diversity, localism and rural service. The FCC could shut down thousands of LPTV and translator stations to give wireless carriers spectrum in rural areas that they do not need and likely will not use.
The FCC’s incentive auction order damages LPTV and translator services in other ways. For example, although those services are secondary to full power broadcast stations, the FCC’s order treats low power stations as secondary even to unlicensed services. Congress did not authorize the FCC to elevate unlicensed services over licensed LPTV and translator services.
While the economic costs of the FCC’s refusal even to consider preservation of LPTV and translator service are borne most directly by the licensees, the public served by these critical facilities is the biggest loser. The TV stations that air local high school football games, provide ethnic and foreign language programming, provide church services and weather alerts, and bring network programming into rural areas that are already underserved – will all be gone without any consideration of the value lost to millions of Americans.
While LPTV and translator operators and their audiences would like to see much more done, the LPTV and Translator Preservation Act is a step in the right direction.
We are very thankful for the support Chairman Emeritus Barton has given to Americans who rely on LPTV and translator service. We appreciate his support for these hometown businesses that serve their communities with local programming, ethnic programming, local church services, weather alerts, and programming for linguistically isolated audiences, and that extend the reach of full power, network affiliated stations into unserved rural areas.
Again, thank you for the opportunity to testify at today’s hearing and for your work on this important issue for Americans who rely on LPTV and translator service.
JOIN The ALLIANCE