FCC Spectrum Auction to Hurt Minority Broadcasters Most

By Kevin Eck 

There’s been a lot of talk about how much money full-power broadcasters stand to make from selling off the airwaves they own in the FCC’s upcoming spectrum auction.

But the Los Angeles Times points out, not all broadcasters are created equal. Even if there’s spectrum available after the larger stations are repacked, low power broadcasters aren’t eligible for the $1.75 billion in federal funds to help broadcasters pay for the equipment needed to move channels after the auction.

“It’s catastrophic,” said Ravi Kapur, who runs South Asian broadcast network, Diya TV. “The FCC is obliterating the most successful program they’ve ever implemented to diversify media ownership.”

The FCC created low-power TV licenses in 1982 “to provide opportunities for locally oriented television service.” The stations are limited in their signal power, allowing them to broadcast on unused patches of the airwaves as long as they don’t cause interference with full-power stations.

Because they are easier to obtain and less costly to run, low-power TV stations have a much more diverse ownership.

About 15% of the stations were owned by women, 10% by Latinos and 1.3% by blacks, as of 2013, the most recent FCC data available. That compares with 6.3% of full-power stations owned by women, 3% by Latinos and 0.6% by blacks.

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