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July 25, 2011
Dennis Wharton
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FCC Broadband Plan Threatens Millions of TV Viewers

Minimum of 210 full power TV stations could go dark

Top 10 markets could be severely impacted, with "Northern Border" stations in Detroit, Buffalo, Clev

WASHINGTON, DC -- Forty percent of full power local television stations in the U.S. could have to vacate their current TV channel assignment under the FCC's National Broadband Plan, and a minimum of 210 of those stations could go off the air permanently, according to an NAB analysis released today.

The NAB analysis found that 672 of the nation's 1735 full-power TV stations must be "cleared" from channels 31-51 to accommodate the FCC's goal of reclaiming an additional 120 MHz of spectrum from broadcasters. During the analog-to-digital TV transition two years ago, only 174 stations had to be cleared from channels 52-69 and forced to move to a new channel.

"If the FCC's National Broadband Plan to recapture 20 more TV channels is implemented, service disruption, confusion and inconvenience for local television viewers will make the 2009 DTV transition seem like child's play," said NAB President Gordon Smith. "NAB endorses truly voluntary spectrum auctions. Our concern is that the FCC plan will morph into involuntary, because it is impossible for the FCC to meet spectrum reclamation goals without this becoming a government mandate."

Broadcasters returned to the government more than one-quarter of TV spectrum (channels 52-69 - or 108 MHz of spectrum) two years ago following a transition from analog to digital TV. That transition was conditioned on the promise that 46 million Americans exclusively reliant on over-the-air TV, along with pay TV viewers who watch local and network broadcast programming, would benefit from a DTV transition that would usher in HDTV programming, more viewer choice, and live and local mobile DTV. Many of those promises could go unfulfilled if the National Broadband Plan is implemented.

NAB's analysis of the FCC proposal to recapture 20 more TV channels reveals the following:

● Top Ten TV markets would be dramatically impacted by the FCC proposal, with 73 stations in the largest ten markets going off the air;

● More than half of all TV stations would likely need to disrupt service for millions of viewers for a few hours up to a few weeks to accommodate repositioning of those TV channels "repacked" into a lower channel assignment;

● Service disruptions would occur at more than 800 TV stations in large markets, mid-sized markets and small markets; the negative impact would be spread among network-owned stations and affiliates, Spanish and other foreign-language stations, independent, religious and public TV stations;

● Americans living in cities along the Canadian border would bear extra burdens because of international treaty obligations designed to minimize interference between Canadian and U.S. cities. Under the FCC NBP, all Detroit TV stations could go dark. Other border cities that could face severe disruptions and loss of service include Buffalo, Seattle, Syracuse, Cleveland, Spokane, Rochester and Watertown, NY and Flint, Mich.

NAB called on the FCC to immediately make public its analyses of the NBP's potential negative impact on viewers of free and local television. "We've waited patiently for over a year for FCC data on how the Broadband Plan impacts broadcasters, and more importantly, the tens of millions of viewers who rely every day on local TV for news, entertainment, sports and lifeline emergency weather information," said the NAB's Smith. "Even Congress can't get information from the FCC. All we are seeking is more transparency. We have but one chance to get this right if we are to preserve future innovation for broadcasters and our viewers."

About NAB
The National Association of Broadcasters is the premier advocacy association for America's broadcasters. NAB advances radio and television interests in legislative, regulatory and public affairs. Through advocacy, education and innovation, NAB enables broadcasters to best serve their communities, strengthen their businesses and seize new opportunities in the digital age. Learn more at


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