Brendan Sasso, “Google, Microsoft push for FCC flexibility in spectrum auctions,” The Hill, February 13, 2012

Article

Brendan Sasso, Google, Microsoft push for FCC flexibility in spectrum auctions, The Hill, February 13, 2012

Quote

” Walden, who is chairman of the Energy and Commerce’s telecom subcommittee, said his spectrum bill ‘simply says that the FCC cannot spend taxpayer funds to clear additional spectrum and then give away that billions of dollars worth of spectrum. Taxpayers deserve a return on their investment.'”

 Comment

Talk about Orwellian doublespeak: this is a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black. Walden is structuring the auction so that broadcasters will receive a huge spectrum windfall at taxpayer expense. Then he invents a new definition of windfall so he can accuse advocates of unlicensed spectrum of doing what he is doing. Chutzpah! But given how many times his soundbite has been reprinted in the press without challenge, he appears to have gotten away with it.

John Eggerton, “Walden: Unlicensed Is Important, But FCC Should Not Give Away Billions,” Broadcasting & Cable, February 9, 2012

Article

John Eggerton, Walden: Unlicensed Is Important, But FCC Should Not Give Away Billions, Broadcasting & Cable, February 9, 2012

Quote

“Communications Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.), said he was for unlicensed spectrum too, but not for the FCC giving away spectrum.”

 Comment

Talk about Orwellian doublespeak: this is a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black. Walden is structuring the auction so that broadcasters will receive a huge spectrum windfall. Then he invents a new definition of windfall so he can accuse his opponents of doing what he is doing. Chutzpah! But I don’t doubt that it will work.

Brandan Sasso, “Dozens of lawmakers call for more unlicensed spectrum,” The Hill, February 9, 2012

Article

Brandan Sasso, Dozens of lawmakers call for more unlicensed spectrum, The Hill, February 9, 2012

Quote

“The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), argues the government should not pay to reclaim airwaves that it will then give away for free in the form of unlicensed spectrum.”

 Comment

Talk about Orwellian doublespeak: this is a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black. Walden is structuring the auction so that broadcasters will receive a huge spectrum windfall. Then he invents a new definition of windfall so he can accuse advocates of unlicensed spectrum of doing what he is doing. Chutzpah! But I don’t doubt that it will work.

Craig Aaron, “When Whinosaurs Attack!,” Huffington Post, February 7, 2012

Article

Craig Aaron, When Whinosaurs Attack!Huffington Post, February 7, 2012

Quote

“[Y]hese whiny media dinosaurs — or whinosaurs for short — have no shame.”

 Comment

Yes, but it takes two to tango. Without Congressional support, the broadcasters’ whining would have long ago fallen on deaf ears at the FCC. This is where Free Press falls short. It’s willing to complain about the broadcasters and occasionally the FCC, but it’s not willing to get at the root of the problem, which is Congress, including some of its closest Congressional allies such as Reps John Dingell and Edward Markey, and Senators Rockefeller and Kerry. Of course, the Republicans are just as much in the pocket of the broadcasters as the Democrats on this issue. But Free Press cannot very well go after the Republicans when there is no light between them and the Democrats on this issue. When Free Press is willing to go after both Democrats and Republicans on this and related bipartisan issues in conflict with the public interest, I’ll stand up and applaud. Until then, it’s not much more than bloviasauring.

Gordon Crovitz, “Spectrum Dinosaurs at the FCC,” February 6, 2012

Article

Gordon Crovitz, Spectrum Dinosaurs at the FCC, February 6, 2012

Comment #1

Title: Spectrum Pigs at the WSJ

The disconnect between the Wall Street Journal’s spectrum advocacy on behalf of its parent company, the News Corp., and its public policy pretensions in this commentary, are simply astounding. Nowhere is it acknowledged that the News Corp. has huge broadcast TV spectrum holdings that would increase in value by billions of dollars if the proposed Congressional/FCC “auction” takes place. Nowhere is it acknowledged that the “auction” really isn’t an auction in the way it is presented here because the proceeds will overwhelmingly go into the pockets of the WSJ/News Corp., not the public; anyone who argues otherwise needs to carefully read the legislation and parse the many Congressional hearings and markups on this subject.

Rupert Murdoch (owner of the WSJ and News Corp.) has consistently been one of the most aggressive (and successful) lobbyists for spectrum giveaways to News Corp (e.g., see my book, Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick: How Local TV Broadcasters Exert Political Power).. And his corporate lobbying position is mimicked here. At the very least, the WSJ, as a matter of journalistic ethics, should acknowledge in this and similar op-eds its parent company’s huge business interest and lobbying activity in the proposed auction of its spectrum licenses. Given the gross magnitude of its conflict of interest, disclosure is probably too embarrassing an option. So its practical options are probably either to merely ignore the issue or write about it without disclosure. To its discredit, it has clearly chosen the latter approach. Shame on it and shame on any other news outlet with broadcast holdings that acts in a similar way.

 Comment #2

Reply to a reader’s comment seeking clarification:

The way broadcast incumbents acquire additional public spectrum rights without compensation to the rights holders (the public) is complicated, and I explain it in my book and also, to a lesser extent, at SpectrumBS.info. Here I can simplify it quite a bit; just remember it is a simplification.

Broadcasters are currently licensed to use a chunk of spectrum for broadcast purposes. The market for spectrum is such that a license to use spectrum for mobile broadband purposes is worth an order of magnitude more than a license to use spectrum for broadcast purposes. This change in license terms is akin to a change in a property’s real estate zoning from low density residential to high density commercial in a commercial area. The incentive auction is structured so that the broadcasters will receive all or substantially all of this windfall. This conflicts with the Communications Act, which prohibits spectrum windfalls, and it also embarrasses Congress, which is embarrassed to give huge amounts of corporate welfare (the spectrum windfall) to some of the wealthiest individuals and most profitable corporations in America. The result is a lot of political posturing and Orwellian type misinformation to the public. This so-called “auction” isn’t about the government staying out of the marketplace; it’s about the government giving a vast amount of public assets to private entities without public compensation (i.e., what should be called “corporate welfare”).

Waldman, Steven, “Local TV Stations Rally to Oppose Media Transparency,” Columbia Journalism Review, January 26, 2012

Article

Waldman, Steven, Local TV Stations Rally to Oppose Media Transparency, Columbia Journalism Review, January 26, 2012

 Comment

It has often been observed that those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it. For more than forty years the public interest community has been trying to get the broadcast industry to have greater transparency regarding its media archives. For some of the early history, see my May 2000 article published in the Harvard International Journal of Press-Politics: “Local TV News Archives as a Public Good.” Unfortunately, it is simply not in the self-interest of broadcasters to face this type of accountability. And given that the public interest community is politically weak, politically naive, generally blissfully ignorant of history, and often more interested in do-good headlines than actual results, the broadcasters win time and again regardless of how poor are their public policy excuses. It’s a sad story. Hopefully, it won’t be repeated yet again. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

Juliana Greenwald, “Walden Bullish on Spectrum Legislation’s Prospects,” National Journal, January 25, 2012

Article

Juliana Greenwald, Walden Bullish on Spectrum Legislation’s Prospects, National Journal, January 25, 2012

Quote

“Walden said the language included in his bill would ensure the FCC can’t pick winners and losers.”

 Comment

This is an absurd statement, given that Walden wants to rig the auction process, including FCC incentives, so that the public transfers tens of billions of dollars to one of the most politically powerful lobbies–the local TV broadcasters–without public compensation. If that’s not picking winners (well-connected industry interests) and losers (the public), I don’t know what is.