FCC's Clyburn: Relocating broadcast airwaves could hurt local news

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn is worried that the agency's proposals to relocate broadcasters' airwaves will impact the already ailing news industry.

In FCC's meeting today, where the National Broadband Plan was discussed, Clyburn said the recommendations come at a "crossroads in the nation's telecom policy."  She applauded many of the proposals, such as strengthening the nation's public safety networks.

But she also said she wants to "answer some essential questions that may shed light on contracting the broadcast spectrum."

"What will the effect of moving this spectrum from broadcast to mobile use be on the delivery of news and information to local communities?" she asked.  "I am very concerned about sacrificing an essential service to our communities in favor of new apps that have nothing to do with ensuring that we can have meaningful access to the news and information critical to our daily lives.  It is unclear at this point whether the Internet can currently replace these trusted sources."

All media outlets, from TV stations to daily newspapers, have struggled to adapt to the new revenue models of the Internet. Repurposing broadcast spectrum for mobile applications may further hinder the ability of local TV stations--the main source of news for most Americans--to flourish in the new media environment.

But if broadcasters are not using their airwaves in the most efficient way possible, it should be evaluated, she said.

"If broadcasters are not using the spectrum we have given them for free, then it should be put to different use," Clyburn said. "Broadcasters must be partners in this endeavor."