The Great Spectrum Giveaway
Date: Sat, 11 Nov 95 12:44:26 -0800
From: Peter Langston <psl>
Subject: The Great Spectrum Giveaway
From: Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting <email@example.com>
The following action alert appeared in the October 1995 issue of
FAIR's newsletter, EXTRA! Update. For more on FAIR, see our URL at
http://www.fair.org/fair/ You can subscribe to FAIR's
publications, EXTRA! and EXTRA! Update, by calling 800-847-3993
from 9 to 5 Eastern Time.
The Great Spectrum Giveaway
In the late '80s, there was a lot of talk about "high-definition
television" (HDTV)--a new generation of TV technology that promised
cinema-quality images for home viewers. The catch was that the FCC
would have to turn over to station owners vast amounts of unused
broadcast spectrum space to carry the new data-rich transmissions.
It sounded like a good deal to the Federal Communications
Commission--particularly since, after a several-year transition
period (allowing consumers time to buy new high-definition TV sets)
the old-style TV channels might no longer be needed, and could be
reassigned for other uses.
In the past couple of years, however, technological advances--and
the prospect of big money--have changed most broadcaster's plans.
Through digital broadcasting, it's now feasible to run four to six
different regular-quality TV programs on the width of spectrum that
was previously going to be used for one HDTV channel. Or a portion
of the frequencies could be used for a variety of high-tech
communications--from paging services to wireless data transmission.
Naturally, licensees can make more money selling commercials on
four new regular channels than on one new high-resolution channels.
So the current analog TV stations want to be given the new digital
licenses, for free, with virtually no restrictions over what
they'll do with it.
In other words, publicly owned broadcast frequencies worth tens of
billions of dollars--some say as much as $100 billion--would be
given away to private companies for whatever purposes they choose.
This spectrum giveaway would actually be mandated by law under the
House version of the telecommunications "reform" law.
But there is no logical reason why each TV station owner should be
given several more channels. Nearly everyone feels that present TV
programming leaves much to be desired--why would we want four times
as much of it from the same sources? If we are going to create
dozens of new channels, doesn't it make sense to create new,
independent stations to counteract the growing concentration of
media ownership? Since the vast majority of all TV stations are now
owned by white male-dominated, for-profit corporations, why not use
this opportunity to allow more diverse control of the nation's most
The FCC has asked for public comment on the issue of whether to
give existing stations valuable new spectrum space. FAIR urges its
supporters to speak out against a plan that gives away more of the
airwaves to those corporations that already dominate broadcast
Nor is auctioning off the public airwaves to the highest bidder the
answer. That would simply insure that more well-financed
corporations, like phone and cable companies, would be able to take
over a large chunk of the airwaves.
If more TV channels are going to be created, they should be
assigned to those who can best serve the public interest, and
provide much-needed independence and diversity to the broadcast
====> Make your voice heard in support of the principle that public
interest standards should determine who gets access to new
broadcast channels. The deadline for comments is November 15. To
make a formal communication, send ten copies of your letter to:
Office of the Secretary
1919 M Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20554
Include the case number, 87-268.
You can also fax to 202-418-2801 or e-mail your thoughts to FCC
FCC Chairman Reed Hundt
Commissioner James Quello
Commissioner Andrew Barrett
Commissioner Rachelle Chong
Commissioner Susan Ness
© 1995 Peter Langston