Pubcasters who own broadcast towers are about to get regulatory relief thanks to a FCC decision that closes the books on a lengthy effort to revise rules governing tower safety and maintenance. At an open meeting Friday, FCC commissioners approved the changes while decrying the long road their predecessors took to get there. “This issue was first raised in 2005 during the Commission’s 2004 biennial rule review,” said commissioner Michael O’Rielly. The question that has to be asked is, why did it take the commission nine years?”
Though the Part 17 rules apply to all owners of “antenna structures” (FCC-speak for towers), the Commission’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau promoted the changes as a boon to cellular and data services, which depend on hundreds of thousands of smaller towers across the country to meet ever-growing demand from consumers. By eliminating a requirement that tower owners conduct quarterly physical checks of the monitoring systems at all of their towers, the FCC “will save antenna structure owners millions of dollars annually,” said WTB representative Michael Smith.
The FCC recently released the entire text of its Report and Order detailing rules for the upcoming broadcast spectrum auctions, making it clear that it intends to make no effort to preserve public TV signal coverage. The 484-page report, “Expanding the Economic and Innovation Opportunities of Spectrum Through Incentive Auctions,” rejects the proposal supported by CPB and other leading broadcast organizations to preserve at least one station per geographic market. If you dive into this ponderous document, I recommend paragraph 367 and footnote 1090 (unfortunately, not a typo — there really are over 1,000 footnotes). In paragraph 367, the FCC states that it declines to “restrict acceptance of such bids based on the potential loss of television service or specific programming.”
The FCC further states that any such restrictions “could reduce the amount of spectrum available” to carry out the auction and undermine the “goal of allowing market forces to determine the highest and best use of spectrum.” The long and short of it is that if the entities that hold America’s 289 UHF public TV licenses decide to sell their underlying spectrum in the forthcoming “incentive” auction, that spectrum will be lost to noncommercial television forever. It need not be so.
WAMU-FM in Washington, D.C., will enter the Fredericksburg, Va., market with the pending purchase of 8,000-watt WWED 89.5-FM. WAMU has proposed to buy WWED from the Educational Media Corp., a nonprofit Christian ministry based in Spotsylvania, Va. According to an asset purchase agreement filed with the FCC, WAMU licensee American University will pay $375,000 for WWED and a booster signal in Fredericksburg. WWED and sister station WWEM-FM in Lynchburg, Va., went dark as of Aug. 1, 2013, according to fredericksburg.com.
FCC commissioners got an update Friday on the status of low-power FM applications, six months after the closing of the most recent LPFM application window. The FCC received 2,826 applications for low-power stations during the window, which ran from Oct. 17 to Nov. 15, 2013. As of April, FCC staff had granted permits to more than 1,200 of those applicants.
• Pubcasting is not happy with the FCC's spectrum auction report, with three of the system's major organizations saying June 6 that the new rules violate the Public Broadcasting Act. "We are obliged to express our profound disappointment that the Commission has rejected one of public television’s most important policy goals in the auction process — our request that the Commission ensure that no community find itself without free access to public television service in the aftermath of the auction," read a joint statement from the presidents of the Association for Public Television Stations, CPB and PBS. • The second annual "Bob Ross Bar Crawl" will take place Sept. 30 in Chicago. Ross fan Jimmy Barrett got the idea for the event after holding a Halloween party in which two of his friends coincidentally both dressed as the Joy of Painting star. Attendees will ride a rented trolley around Chicago's North Side, decked out in beards and Afro wigs, according to DNAInfo Chicago.