Preston Padden has been lobbying behind the scenes at the FCC to bring broadcasters' views on the spectrum auction to some ears that really matter in the process. It was revealed that the former network executive spent two days — May 2 and 3 — meeting with FCC members and staff on auction issues.
Padden is now executive director of the Expanding Opportunities for Broadcasters Coalition, a group of station owners who want to participate in the auction. Padden has been advocating the preferences of those broadcasters to the commission. The meeting was unannounced, but an ex parte letter from the communications law firm of Wiley Rein LLP revealed some highlights.
“During the meetings, the Coalition representatives commended the FCC for indicating that it has abandoned the arbitrary and ill-advised scoring of broadcast stations participating in the reverse auction on the basis of population,” wrote Ari Meltzer, the Wiley Rein counsel for the coalition.
“However, Mr. Padden observed that the FCC has offered no other objective basis to score TV stations willing to surrender their spectrum in the auction. As a result, Mr. Padden advised the meeting participants, many broadcasters continue to perceive the specter of scoring based on some arbitrary factors as a real possibility, and this is driving stations away from the auction.”
He also told the participants at each meeting, Meltzer said, that the commission’s proposed requirement that stations electing to channel share must continue to place a city-grade signal over their community of license is unnecessarily restricting the availability of sharing partners for some interested stations.
“This is inconsistent, he emphasized, with the underlying principal of the incentive auction — that stations going off the air (and, thus, no longer providing a city-grade signal to their community of license) will further the nation’s communications goals,” the letter said.
Padden stressed that the FCC should be encouraging stations to surrender their channels and channel share, not erecting barriers to this potentially attractive mechanism for participation.
Finally, Padden said that restricting AT&T and Verizon from participating in the forward auction would reduce total auction revenues, thereby endangering the FCC’s ability to reallocate substantial spectrum for mobile broadband and threatening its ability to fund the nationwide broadband public safety network.
On May 2, Padden met with Gary Epstein of the FCC Incentive Auction Task Force and Dave Grimaldi and Louis Peraertz of the Office of Commissioner Mignon Clyburn. Later, Padden and Richard Bodorff of Wiley Rein also met with Commissioner Robert McDowell. On May 3, Padden met with Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel and her aide, Alex Hoehn-Seric.