The legal friction between the industry lobby group and the FCC continues. Now the National Association of Broadcasters has taken the federal regulator to court over its plan to auction off some of the airwaves next year. Essentially, the NAB have petitioned the D.C. District Court of Appeals over the FCC’s blueprint for its debut spectrum reverse auction, saying the commission’s TVStudy will lead to broadcasters being hurt. “Under this new methodology, many broadcast television licensees, including NAB's members, will lose coverage area and population served during the auction's repacking and reassignment process, or be forced to participate in the auction (and relinquish broadcast spectrum rights),” says the August 18 filing (read it here). The NAB estimates that broadcasters could find themselves paying out up to $500 million in those repackaging costs.
“Accordingly, NAB respectfully requests that this Court hold unlawful, vacate, enjoin, and set aside the Commission's adoption of TVStudy in the Order and grant such additional relief as may be necessary and appropriate,” the 4-page petition adds. NAB claims that the FCC rules violate 2012’s Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act and that Congress may need to rein the regulatory in on this one.
With its rules first circulated by the commission back in April, the reverse auction would allow station owners to take bids from wireless companies hungry for their spectrum for broadband use. Along with offering that broadcasters can drop out if the bids are too low, the FCC has insisted that if a station doesn’t want to participate in the mid-2015 auction, it will not lose its coverage area. The NAB obviously doesn’t buy that.
Miguel Estrada, Scott Martin, Lucas Townsend and Ashley Boizelle of the D.C. offices of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP are representing the NAB.