CPB plans meetings to inform public TV execs about spectrum auction

By Dru Sefton

CPB will convene two meetings about spectrum over the next two months, working to craft guidelines for public TV stations to use in deciding whether to participate in the upcoming auction, as well as exploring wider policy and technology issues.

Broadcasters face several options as the FCC works to clear bandwidth for the growing number of wireless devices. A station can sell all its spectrum and get out of broadcasting completely, sell part of it and share a channel with another broadcaster, or opt out of the auction altogether. The auction is set for mid-2015.

CPB is approaching spectrum issues in a “very measured” way, CPB President Pat Harrison told the board at its April 8 meeting in Washington, D.C. “We’re hearing that stations need more spectrum, not less,” for public-service oriented projects. CPB wants to be sure that “that all stations have all the information they need” to make their decision, she said.

So CPB will gather 15 pubcasting g.m.’s April 22 and 23 to “reach an agreement on guiding principles” that public television executives can use to decide whether to participate in the auction, said Michael Levy, CPB e.v.p. That document will be presented to the CPB Board’s spectrum committee at its next meeting, April 24.

“No matter what stations decide to do,” Harrison said, “they need these guiding principles. This goes back to the mission of public media. We’re not commercial, so different issues apply.”

Then, on June 2, former Association of Public Television Stations President John Lawson, who recently penned a Current piece on public-service use of spectrum, will moderate a meeting including technology and policy analysts. “It’ll be in a seminar format, to allow us to hear from a variety of people at the center of this issue,” said Brent Nelson, head of the CPB board’s spectrum committee, which is working on a draft agenda.

Meanwhile, CPB COO Vinnie Curren and Levy met with FCC officials March 31 for a spectrum briefing that “covered a number of topics,” Levy told the board. In response to that meeting, leaders of the so-called G4 — CPB, PBS, NPR and APTS — will meet within the next week to 10 days, Curren said, to “make sure we’re all pulling on the oars in same direction.”

CPB is also getting ready to release a Booz & Co. policy paper on how spectrum auctions might affect the public broadcasting system. The board got a preview of that report at its December meeting.

 Questions, comments, tips? sefton@current.org
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