FCC Proposes Rules For Channel Sharing Outside the Incentive Auction

Posted on July 30th, 2015 by

Yes, you read that headline correctly. When the FCC released its order on reconsideration addressing channel sharing issues in connection with the TV incentive auction, it simultaneously launched a separate rulemaking proposing rules that would allow full power and Class A TV stations to channel share outside of the incentive auction context.

How interesting is this turn of events? Well, considering that the FCC declined to consider non-incentive auction channel sharing in the earlier proceeding, the change of heart is a curious one. Why curious? Because the basis for the change of heart was the phrase “we now believe it is appropriate to do so” (for any hawks out there on government agency power, please take note).

Apparently, the FCC now believes that it is “in the public interest” to extend channel sharing rights beyond the incentive auction. We are at a loss to understand how it wasn’t in the public interest just six months ago, but we digress. Spectral efficiency, help for small and minority-owned stations, and improvements in net income were all cited as reasons for allowing channel sharing outside of the incentive auction.

The FCC takes some time addressing the concern that channel sharers not increase the number of stations eligible for carriage on cable systems, and they propose various limitations that would ensure that result doesn’t follow. Most of them relate back to the sharer station’s carriage rights before the channel sharing agreement takes effect.

You can comment on the FCC’s proposals, but you’ll need to do so soon. Comments are due no later than August 13th, with reply comments by August 28th.   See paragraph 69 of the proposed rulemaking for filing instructions. Note that this rulemaking does not apply to channel sharing for LPTV stations. The FCC is considering that issue in a separate proceeding.