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Chief, Media Bureau - Remarks at The APTS Public Media Summit 2013

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Released: February 26, 2013

Remarks of William T. Lake

Chief, Media Bureau, FCC


APTS Public Media Summit 2013


February 25, 2013
Hyatt Regency Crystal City
Arlington, VA

Thanks very much. The theme of this year’s Summit,
“public service media,” captures much of what’s going well
with public broadcasting today -- and the challenges it faces.

When we look around, much is good. Public broadcasting
seems to have a bigger role in American life than ever before.

• This year again, PBS is rated the most trusted institution in
the country and the second-best use of federal tax dollars,
after the military.
• Big Bird found himself (or is it herself?) a factor in the
presidential election.
• NPR’s audience continues to grow; its app is one of the
most popular for the iPhone and the iPad. NPR podcasts
are downloaded over 15 million times a month; and NPR’s
mobile website is viewed almost 5 million times a week.
• When PBS made a schedule change that moved the
popular Independent Lens film program to a less
convenient time, film makers and loyal viewers raised
such a stink that PBS moved it back.
• Downton Abbey made the ups and downs of early 20th
Century British aristocracy a matter of passionate concern
to millions of Americans – so passionate that Matthew
Crawley’s death last week caused more funk across the
country than Washington’s looming sequestration.
(Spoiler apology to my friend Rebecca, who hasn’t
reached that episode yet.)

The media landscape is changing rapidly, and public
broadcasting has done much to stay at the center of what is
now a broad and diverse network of public service media.
That network now includes many other entities, with public
1


broadcasters the essential hub. As consumers have come to
view the Internet and mobile devices as sources of news and
entertainment, public stations have gone multi-platform, to be
available wherever and whenever a consumer wants to find
content. And, as new sources of content have arisen, public
broadcasters have embraced them, often partnering with
other public service entities.

You all know better than I how public stations have led
and innovated in this regard. One example I like is Be Well
Kentucky, a collaboration by station KET with community
groups to produce a 13-part television series and online
content addressing health issues in that state. The online
website offers health information, programming schedules,
and toolkits for community involvement. KET followed up
with on-the-ground health literacy workshops for children,
families, and minority populations. When the Commission
was putting together its National Broadband Plan, APTS
brought to our attention many other cases in which public
stations have seized the opportunities presented by today’s
multifaceted public service media world.

But challenges remain. Many public stations are working
to heed the call by the Knight Commission to become more
local, more inclusive, and more interactive. They are moving
to evolve content that appeals to a younger demographic
more accustomed to digital media. And they are challenged
to pick up even more responsibility for providing the
journalism our democracy needs, in light of the financial
stresses hitting many newspapers.

Meeting these needs, while deploying new platforms and
networking with new partners -- these all cost money, at a
time when Federal funding is flat and uncertain and other
funding sources are stressed by the long recession. Even the
inhabitants of Downton Abbey learned, this season, that they
had to put the estate on a better financial footing to ensure its
future. Public stations have to do likewise. I know that Pat
and Lonna, and their colleagues at CPB, have led
aggressively to meet the dual challenges of finding additional
2


revenue and achieving efficiencies by rationalizing the public
television network as a whole.

You knew that I would get to the incentive auction that we
are planning for next year. That auction offers help in
meeting both of these challenges. Contributions of spectrum
to the auction can bring a major capital infusion for cash-
strapped public entities. And the options of channel sharing
or a move from UHF to VHF offer a way for a public station
to receive a capital infusion and remain on the air, continuing
to serve its viewers.

At the same time, participation in the auction offers a one-
time opportunity to address the inefficiencies of overlapping
coverage and duplication of programming in markets that
have grown up over time to have multiple PBS stations. If
public stations seize that opportunity and are willing to make
some hard decisions, they can prove to Congress and the
public that they are capable of rationalizing their operations,
so that neither government nor private dollars will be wasted
on inefficiency. There will never be a better time to address
this issue than now, when doing so through the auction offers
not only ongoing cost savings but the additional payoff of a
capital infusion. In the words of the proverb, “Seize
opportunity by the beard, for it is bald behind.”

There’s another reason why public stations may want to
see the incentive auction succeed. Your move onto the
online platform gives you a strong interest in universal access
to broadband. In the public broadcasting sphere, universal
service has meant having a public station available to
everyone in the country. Now that public media are going
multi-platform, that goal includes making sure that people
can view your content online. There are reports that limited
broadband has already begun to constrain the efforts of
public stations to reach diverse and underserved audiences.
For example, Next Door Neighbors, a Nashville Public
Television program that serves local immigrant and refugee
communities, relies on broadband to reach its audience, most
of which accesses the content online. But the lack of access
3


to broadband in rural areas of middle Tennessee — areas that
include large immigrant constituencies — hinders that
objective. Public television’s mission demands that we
succeed in bridging the digital divide. A successful incentive
auction will help mobile broadband to be part of the solution.

Your Association leadership has been active on the
auction front as well. In addition to the webinars that APTS
helped the FCC to organize, APTS and PBS arranged
webinars on valuation, engineering, and legal questions.
APTS is working with a major law firm to drill down on the
legal issues that public stations may face in positioning
themselves for the auction and to plan for channel sharing,
and with valuation experts and others from the financial
community to evaluate the various economic opportunities.
We understand that they are prioritizing working with
stations that may be interested in channel sharing or possible
auction participation. And we are encouraged that some
public stations are reaching out to commercial stations in
their markets to explore channel sharing opportunities. As
you surely know, we are available to help you with any and
all of the above.

We are working hard to move the incentive auction to a
reality that public stations can fully evaluate. In October we
released an extensive Notice of Proposed Rulemaking,
inviting comment on every aspect of
• what we call the “reverse auction,” in which
broadcasters will volunteer their spectrum;
• the “forward auction,” in which wireless companies
will bid for the spectrum to provide wireless service;
• the repacking of the broadcast band after the auction;
and
• the transition for broadcasters that are required to
change channels in the repack.

Initial comments were due on January 25. We received
about 250 comments, roughly 70 of which were extensive.
The public broadcasting community submitted very helpful
views, both on how the auction should work for stations that
4


want to participate and on how the repacking and the
transition should treat stations that do not participate. That
submission was especially helpful on issues that relate
particularly to public stations, such as maintaining universal
access to public TV services and the details of channel
sharing. We’re giving careful attention to all the comments
we received.

Reply comments will be due March 12, and our goal is to
adopt auction rules this year and hold the auction in 2014.
The order we hope to adopt this year will be an important
milestone, but it will not end the process of preparing for the
auction. We expect to issue additional public notices to
invite comment on more detailed proposals, in a transparent
process that will continue up until the auction itself.

Last Friday was the first anniversary of the passage of the
Spectrum Act that launched the auction proceeding, and I am
pleased with how far we’ve come in this short time. Even a
year ago, many broadcasters found the auction concept
foreign and were reticent even to think about participating.
Now, one reads news articles about how KCSM is
incorporating possible auction participation into its plans for
sale. Similarly, CPBI has asked in its rulemaking comments
that we facilitate its contribution of WEDY to the auction. In
a short year, both public and commercial stations have
recognized that the auction is an economic opportunity worth
considering, and participation has become an acceptable
business option. With pleasure in that progress, we look
forward to continuing to work with you to make the auction a
success for all concerned.

Thank you, and I’m happy to take your questions!
5


Document Outline

  • Remarks of William T. Lake
  • Chief, Media Bureau, FCC
  • UAPTS Public Media Summit 2013
  • February 25, 2013
  • Hyatt Regency Crystal City
  • Arlington, VA
  • Thanks very much. The theme of this years Summit, public service media, captures much of whats going well with public broadcasting today -- and the challenges it faces.
  • When we look around, much is good. Public broadcasting seems to have a bigger role in American life than ever before.
  • This year again, PBS is rated the most trusted institution in the country and the second-best use of federal tax dollars, after the military.
  • Big Bird found himself (or is it herself?) a factor in the presidential election.
  • NPRs audience continues to grow; its app is one of the most popular for the iPhone and the iPad. NPR podcasts are downloaded over 15 million times a month; and NPRs mobile website is viewed almost 5 million times a week.
  • When PBS made a schedule change that moved the popular Independent Lens film program to a less convenient time, film makers and loyal viewers raised such a stink that PBS moved it back.
  • Downton Abbey made the ups and downs of early 20PthP Century British aristocracy a matter of passionate concern to millions of Americans so passionate that Matthew Crawleys death last week caused more funk across the country than Washingtons loo...
  • The media landscape is changing rapidly, and public broadcasting has done much to stay at the center of what is now a broad and diverse network of public service media. That network now includes many other entities, with public broadcasters the essen...
  • You all know better than I how public stations have led and innovated in this regard. One example I like is Be Well Kentucky, a collaboration by station KET with community groups to produce a 13-part television series and online content addressing he...
  • But challenges remain. Many public stations are working to heed the call by the Knight Commission to become more local, more inclusive, and more interactive. They are moving to evolve content that appeals to a younger demographic more accustomed to ...
  • Meeting these needs, while deploying new platforms and networking with new partners -- these all cost money, at a time when Federal funding is flat and uncertain and other funding sources are stressed by the long recession. Even the inhabitants of Do...
  • You knew that I would get to the incentive auction that we are planning for next year. That auction offers help in meeting both of these challenges. Contributions of spectrum to the auction can bring a major capital infusion for cash- strapped publi...
  • At the same time, participation in the auction offers a one-time opportunity to address the inefficiencies of overlapping coverage and duplication of programming in markets that have grown up over time to have multiple PBS stations. If public station...
  • Theres another reason why public stations may want to see the incentive auction succeed. Your move onto the online platform gives you a strong interest in universal access to broadband. In the public broadcasting sphere, universal service has meant...
  • Your Association leadership has been active on the auction front as well. In addition to the webinars that APTS helped the FCC to organize, APTS and PBS arranged webinars on valuation, engineering, and legal questions. APTS is working with a major l...
  • We are working hard to move the incentive auction to a reality that public stations can fully evaluate. In October we released an extensive Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, inviting comment on every aspect of
  • what we call the reverse auction, in which broadcasters will volunteer their spectrum;
  • the forward auction, in which wireless companies will bid for the spectrum to provide wireless service;
  • the repacking of the broadcast band after the auction; and
  • the transition for broadcasters that are required to change channels in the repack.
  • Initial comments were due on January 25. We received about 250 comments, roughly 70 of which were extensive. The public broadcasting community submitted very helpful views, both on how the auction should work for stations that want to participate an...
  • Reply comments will be due March 12, and our goal is to adopt auction rules this year and hold the auction in 2014. The order we hope to adopt this year will be an important milestone, but it will not end the process of preparing for the auction. We...
  • Last Friday was the first anniversary of the passage of the Spectrum Act that launched the auction proceeding, and I am pleased with how far weve come in this short time. Even a year ago, many broadcasters found the auction concept foreign and were ...
  • Thank you, and Im happy to take your questions!

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