Bush wants fees on analog spectrum

Mar 5, 2001  •  Post A Comment

President Bush last week proposed requiring the nation’s commercial TV stations to start paying $200 million in annual spectrum fees, at least until they return their analog channels to the government.
The proposal for an “analog spectrum lease fee,” which was mentioned last week in the fine print of the president’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year, didn’t spell out additional details.
But government officials said the proposal essentially mirrored one that the Clinton administration advanced during the previous two years.
Like the Clinton administration plans, the Bush legislative proposal is intended to encourage broadcasters to switch to digital by giving them a financial reason to do so.
“It would hopefully serve as a spur to get them to go sooner rather than later,” a government official said.
The government has a major stake in the issue because it gave each of the nation’s more than 1,600 TV stations a second channel to help make the switch. The government has also made it clear that it wants to auction the rights to one of the channels after the switch to the new technology.
Complicating the scenario is the fact that broadcasters don’t have to give a channel back until after the transition. Industry critics fear that without facing some sort of financial penalty, broadcasters will prolong the transition, keeping both channels for years, if not forever.
At deadline, the National Association of Broadcasters had no comment. But the association lobbied vigorously to kill the Clinton administration’s initiatives and a similar proposal by the president’s father, former President George Bush.
Ken Johnson, a spokesman for Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-La., forsees this year’s version meeting the same fate.
“It was a bad idea first proposed by the Clinton administration, and it’s still a bad idea today,” Mr. Johnson said. “The bottom line is simply this: Broadcasters are having enough trouble making the transition to digital without the federal government making matters worse.”