Raycom Media did its part today to help the broadcast industry in its fight to hang on to airwave spectrum — the over-the-air signals that many stations consider to be their life blood. The TV station owner was the first to unveil a deal to offer Bounce TV, which calls itself the first broadcast network for African Americans. What makes this different from a million other press releases about well-meaning projects? Remember: FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski wants TV stations to give up some of the spectrum that they use to transmit shows to TV sets with antennas. He wants to auction the airwaves to phone companies that sell wireless broadband services. Without a change, he says, people who use smartphones and tablet computers soon will face a crisis of high prices, dropped calls and dead zones. But stations offering Bounce TV can say that they are making better use of the airwaves. The network will give “underserved African American consumers a new local television brand designed specifically for them,” Raycom CEO Paul McTear says. The programming plans are still vague: Bounce TV executives including Martin Luther King III, Ambassador Andrew Young and the co-founders of Rainforest Films — Rob Hardy and Will Packer — say the channel will operate 24/7 and offer original shows, sports, re-runs and movies including Universal’s Ray, Do The Right Thing, The Bone Collector and The Wiz and Sony’s Philadelphia, Ali and A Raisin In The Sun. They expect Bounce TV to be available to half the country when it launches this fall. Raycom stations reach about 10% of all viewers. But political operatives at the National Association of Broadcasters appreciate how Bounce TV can help the trade group’s campaign against Genachowski’s broadband spectrum plan. It circulated the Bounce TV announcement and gave the project its seal of approval. Raycom is “utilizing digital spectrum in a very smart and truly meaningful way,” the NAB says, adding that it “fully expect(s) that other broadcasters will support Bounce TV.”
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