Pubcasters advise FCC to “carefully evaluate” any channel-sharing proposals

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The G4 — the Association of Public Television Stations, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Public Television Service and National Public Radio — on March 18 filed a 19-page document with the Federal Communications Commission commenting on its notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on spectrum allocation. In it, the orgs say that pubcasting would support “certain goals” by the FCC to maximize efficient use of spectrum (Current, Feb. 8, 2010), “but is concerned with the potential ramifications of a number of proposals.”

One topic of talk among stations: Channel sharing. The FCC is pondering letting two or more TV stations — commercial and noncommercial — share a single six-megahertz channel, “thereby fostering efficient use of the U/V Bands,” as it said in the NPRM. The public broadcasters said they may support that, “in certain circumstances.”

“The reservation of spectrum exclusively for noncommercial and educational use, which dates back to the earliest days of FM and television regulation, serves a vital public interest and has been critical to the growth of public broadcasting,” they say in the filing. “Any de-reservation of TV channels would be an extraordinary step that must be carefully evaluated.” The groups advised that channel sharing should be totally voluntary, could not result in loss of universal pubTV service, and should permit the pubTV station to continue to support its local public service mission. Also, there should be a guarantee that, “at all times, there will be a continuing place on the reserved channel” for noncoms.

In related news, according to a March 2 FCC filing, APTS President Patrick Butler and Lonna Thompson, APTS e.v.p. and c.o.o., met with FCC officials to discuss channel sharing and related issues in the NPRM.