Streamlined Reautorization Procedures for Assigned or Transferred Satellite Television Stations
Satellite TV stations are full-power TV stations that rebroadcast the signal of another full-power TV station on a full or part-time basis in rural areas where an entity is not able to operate the station on a stand-alone basis due to viability. To demonstrate this, the applicant must make various showings to demonstrate that the satellite status is necessary. Currently, when a satellite station is authorized or transferred, the assignee applicant must make a new showing of why the existing satellite station status remains necessary. This NPRM eliminates this reauthorization process when the primary and satellite station are transferred or assigned.
From an LPFM perspective, this petition is not engineering related where it would involve Channel 6 therefore it would not impact the availability of LPFM channels in the reserved band. REC does support changes in §73.825 to allow LPFM stations to show protections to Channel 6 TV, Low Power TV and Class A stations in a manner parallel to §74.1205 that applies to translators where prohibited contour overlap can be used to determine protections to a Channel 6 station. This mostly would benefit LPFMs that are short-spaced under §73.825 to a majority of the LPTV, TV Translator and Class-A TV stations running far less than the FCC's maximum facility used to create the §73.825 rule.
From an ownership perspective, this petition assumes that under the new owner, the operation of the satellite station on a stand-alone basis would continue to be non-viable.
Without satellite stations, some rural areas would be denied commercial over-the-air television. At the same time, this could be used by concentrated owners like Sinclair to continue to "crutch" a satellite station and adding to their national market share without those residents even "counting", which at the last authorization may have been non-viable under the previous owner and based on the population density and demographics at the time but under a new owner, could potentially be made viable due to changes in demographics, population density and the ability for the new owner to operate the station in a more efficient manner.
In the view of REC; in the primary broadcast services, the spectrum that a broadcaster is licensed to belongs to the community of license, not the broadcaster. Unfortunately, Commission policy does not recognize this and seems to impose a wireless mentality of "ownership" of spectrum by the broadcaster. The community has the right to their say. At the same time, we can not force a broadcaster to serve a particular community. If a broadcaster determines that a particular satellite station can't be viable on its own, especially when that station's service area receives cable and DBS (DirectTV/DISH) carriage of the primary station, there is no incentive for the broadcaster to keep the satellite station. Perhaps not requiring reauthorization and maintaining exemption to a national ownership cap is what is necessary to preserve over-the-air TV in a rural area that would otherwise by unserved.
As this NPRM has no technical impacts to LPFM stations or other non-commercial broadcasters in the reserved (88~92 MHz) band and from an ownership standpoint, there are pros and cons either way, REC is taking a neutral position on this issue at this time.
Position statements subject to change based on additional research.