Newly-appointed FCC Chairman Ajit Pai visited Arizona this week, and his trip included a meeting with the Arizona Broadcasters Association. He met with ABA President & CEO Art Brooks and two ABA member-station GMs — Ed Munson, KPHO-TV / KTVK-TV and Alejandra Santamaria, KTVW-TV Univision.
The conversation was centered on the subject of TV translators, which are critical to reach the areas in the central and northern parts of the state with free access to television. A lot of the viewers in these areas do not have cable or satellite and rely heavily on the free access through the translators for their programming, news — and especially critical — emergency notifications. Even in Phoenix 22% of the viewers in the market area depend on over the air signals.
The television industry is already preparing for the re-packing stage of the FCC Spectrum Auction which mandates that all TV stations must broadcast at channel 36 or below. Many of the translators are above those frequencies and are being hunted by telecom giants like T-Mobile — which was the big buyer of spectrum in the auction, and Microsoft for other wireless and broadband uses. Our intent is to protect the interests of that vulnerable population that receives free TV through those frequencies.
The Chairman of course doesn’t have immediate fixes for this problem but is studying it seriously. This is primarily a western states issue and our Congressional delegations are also being asked to help as well. Representatives Tom O’Halleran and Paul Gosar represent the largest districts in AZ and have the majority of TV translators within their jurisdiction. They have agreed to co-sponsor a letter to hopefully to be signed by the entire AZ delegation that will go to the FCC Chairman to address the issue.
For more on the issue here’s what the National Association of Broadcasters has to say about the rush for Broadband frequencies.