Broadcasters make arguments in lawsuit against feds

Broadcasters have fired the first legal shot in their fight against the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) upcoming airwave auction.

The National Association of Broadcasters filed its opening brief with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals late on Friday accusing the FCC of “refusal to follow Congress’s express direction” to protect their industry in the upcoming auction.

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“When authorizing the FCC to conduct the broadcast spectrum incentive auction, Congress plainly sought to balance its desire to reallocate spectrum for commercial wireless service with the goal of ensuring that broadcasters that choose not to participate in the auction — and their viewers — are unharmed in the process,” the trade group asserted.

“The FCC has shunned its statutory obligation to protect broadcasters and viewers,” it added.

The massive airwave auction will give TV broadcast companies the chance to sell their rights to the nation’s airwaves back to the FCC. The agency will then repackage those spectrum licenses and sell them to wireless companies such as AT&T and Verizon, which are looking for new airwaves to meet the demand of users whose videos, games and other mobile applications have strained the companies' resources.

Broadcasters, however, claimed they were getting the raw end of the deal because of the way the FCC is calculating each company’s footprint. That could leave some broadcasters worse off after the auction, they have feared.

The new methodology “effectively moves the goalposts by employing dramatically different procedures and producing significantly different calculations of broadcasters' coverage areas and populations served,” the group claimed in its brief.

Additionally, the National Association of Broadcasters is alleging that the agency’s terms of the auction do not adequately define competition, which could lead to worse conditions for broadcasters.

The massive spectrum auction was originally scheduled for next year, but was pushed back to 2016 in reaction to the broadcasters’ lawsuit.