Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Reclaimed TV Spectrum Update: The Threat To Local TV Continues

Reclaimed TV Spectrum Valued at $28 Billion in Obama Jobs Bill

President Obama’s proposed jobs bill assumes that incentive TV spectrum auctions will bring around $28 billion in proceeds. The American Jobs Act supports the National Broadband Plan. That plan calls for redesignating 40% of the spectrum now licensed to TV stations. The idea is that reallocated spectrum would support the development of a much needed public safety network and support the development of nationwide wireless broadband. The revenue from auctions could be used to reduce the deficit. The development of the public safety network and nationwide broadband would stimulate the economy and create jobs.

The problem is that to generate that amount, licensees of two satellite companies and dozens of TV stations would have to participate in the "voluntary auctions". The mechanics of redesignating 40% of spectrum remains a mystery because no broadcasters have indicated a willingness to sell off their spectrum...at values that could well be less than market value. The National Association of Broadcasters has said that allocating 40% of spectrum without voluntary participation would knock 210 full-power station off-air and force 672 to relocate to a different channel.

In that senerio...because of cross-border considerations and other technical inference standards, all stations in the Watertown market would be knocked off-air with no channel to relocate to. The Detroit market would also suffer a similar fate.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like another way of screwing over the consumer and broadcasters. We lost the upper UHF band in 2009 and now it sounds like they want to take more. Why would the government mandate stations to go digital, which must have cost a lot, and then 2 years later want to do away with it.

The problem with cellular and broadband networks is they require bandwidth for each user. During an emergency they become overloaded and fail. Local TV and radio can reach an infinite amount of people using the same bandwidth.

W said...

I don't understand why Watertown would necessarily lose more than WPBS on channel 41, unless 7 and 21 would be sacrificed to nearby markets.

Or is the idea that Canada would also contract the UHF TV spectrum, and then you would have to share the newly limited space with the five Kingston market signals?

Jim Corbin said...

Due to International coordination with Canada and the potential interference impact on other stations in the States...along with the reduced number of overall channels suggests that some markets won't have available channels to broadcast on...So yes WPBS loses out because its outside the new band. WWNY 7,WWTI 50 (21), and WNYF 28 (35 & 18) lose out to other markets. WNYF might also lose out because its considered a secondary service.

Carl B said...

UHF is gone from the Kingston market; the only Canadian signals available there are CTV.

Nonetheless, the repack is being done on both sides of the border with some level of international co-ordination. The info has been posted to a few places, including fcc.gov and rabbitears.info.

Watertown's low-power stations look to be staying right where they were; the full power stations look to be moving WWNY 7→8, WPBS 41→26 and WWTI 21→31, bumping Belleville's underpowered TVOntario from 26→22 (Kingston already lost TVO in 2012). This should be a fine waste of money for the people operating these stations, which already incurred costs in the million-dollars-per-station range "going digital" through expensive upgrades and a lengthy simulcast in 2002-2009. For the US stations, the feds will pay part of this cost but likely not 100%. I wouldn't expect to lose WPBS outright (as someone has to educate Kingstonians now that CICO-TV-38 is long dead) but as an educational charity, any tab left over will be picked up by viewers like you. Thank you.

The Massena station (18 South Colton) is staying put, but might get a bit more co-channel interference as Syracuse stations are being moved to these channels.

I see a few potential casualties. Fox Syracuse is being moved 19→14, right over top of WSTQ-LP (The CW). No indication what happens to the latter station which, as a low-power broadcast, has no legal protection. No new channel number has been announced for them. Roadkill?

There are some other LPTV's in the Syracuse market with similar issues.

TVOntario, or what's left of it, is also at risk. They just survived a recent attempt to cut C$1 million by shutting down every transmitter outside Toronto (there are eight left, which were spared only because they'd gone digital in 2011). Ontario's government likely relented because 2018 is a provincial election year and incumbent Liberal premier Kathleen Wynne is in serious trouble in the polls due to a bungled "green energy" initiative which sent electricity prices skyward. Odds are very good that, instead of moving TVO in Belleville and Cloyne to new channels, her successor (likely a Conservative) will simply shut them down. If any are spared, they'll be in major Ontario cities like Camp Fortune, Québec and not tiny towns on the border (avoiding backlash from Ottawa viewers).

Certainly all of the local full-power stations (WWNY, CKWS, CJOH-6, WPBS, WWTI) are affected in some manner. I have no idea what's behind the move of CJOH-TV-6 from 6→16; this is a 100kW analogue repeater on a VHF channel which (like 2 Bancroft) no one actually wants to use for DTV after all of this is over. Unless someone decides to extend the FM band in future (unlikely), 6 will be vacant. My guess is that one of the two duplicate CTV signals in Kingston-Deseronto will simply go away as it's not worth the money to rebuild this on another channel. CTV is owned or majority-owned by Bell, which is in the satellite TV business and therefore stands to gain by OTA TV simply, slowly dying - and the mess of concentration of ownership in Canada leaves most other private broadcasters in basically the same position. Outside the largest cities? RIP CDN OTA TV.

I'm disappointed that the mobile telephone bandits aren't picking up the full cost of this silliness, on both sides of the border, for both commercial and educational stations. This looks partially-funded stateside and likely unfunded north of the border.