Matthew Berry, chief of staff for FCC commissioner Ajit Pai, channeled broadcasters’ frustration with the Federal Communications Commission Tuesday, calling the agency’s approach to broadcasting “rather curious.”
The agency, Berry said in a speech before the Michigan Association of Broadcasters, “shouldn’t be your enemy.”
“In areas where broadcasters support loosening regulatory requirements, the commission opposes doing so. But in areas where broadcasters oppose relaxing relaxation, the commission supports it,” Berry said. “Taken as a whole, the FCC’s actions don’t appear to reflect a consistent regulatory philosophy.”
Berry had harsh criticism for the FCC’s recent decisions on the broadcast incentive auction planned for March 29, 2016 that he said would “put the long-term future of broadcast television at risk.”
“The FCC is poised to dump serious post-auction difficulties into the laps of broadcasters, wireless carriers, and future commissions,” Berry said of the FCC’s repacking plans that will sprinkle broadcasters “like fairy dust throughout the portion of the 600 MHz band.”
Putting broadcasters in the duplex gap will “cause interference to wireless downlink spectrum,” and in many markets, there will be no spectrum for the exclusive use of wireless microphones.
“It was bad enough earlier this year when the FCC proposed to set aside one vacant channel after the auction in the downsized broadcast television band for unlicensed white-space devices. But earlier this month, the commission tentatively concluded that it would reserve two vacant channels in the repacked UHF broadcast television band for unlicensed white-space devices in those markets where broadcast television stations are placed in the duplex gaps.”
As a result, “more low power TV stations and TV translators that provide valuable service across the country will go off the air,” Berry said.
In contrast to the incentive auction proceeding, the FCC has put media ownership on the back burner. “It has been over seven-and-a-half years” since the commission completed its last ownership review required by Congress every four years. “It is long past time that we eliminate the FCC’s newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rule, which is a relic from another era. Indeed, at the rate things are going, I’m not sure which will last longer: print newspapers or the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rule,” Barry said.