ATSC 3.0 Giveaway
(2107)

See Snider, J.H., Too High a Price for America’s Next Generation TV System, Huffington Post, December 5, 2017.

Incentive Auction Giveaway
(2017)

(Contained in the Middle Class Tax Relief Act of 2012 and implemented in the FCC’s “Incentive Auction” compete on March 30, 2017)

 

This music video (click above), The Airwaves Belong To Us, is based on Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land.” It focuses on Congress’s huge giveaway of public airwaves right to TV broadcast licensees, a large fraction of which are owned by billionaires. See Facebook.com/OurAirwaves and Twitter.com/OurAirwaves for sharing this video via social media.

Here are the lyrics:

The Airwaves Belong to Us

The public airwaves; the public airwaves;
From California to the New York island;
From the red wood forests to the Gulf Stream waters;
These waves belong to you and me.

As I was using, the golden airwaves;
In countless products, in countless places;
I began to wonder, who owns these airwaves?
These waves belong to you and me.

I saw below me, the terra firma;
But all around me, were hidden airwaves;
Their unseen contours, their unseen riches;
These waves belong to you and me.

I saw the tycoons, the media moguls;
And on their fingers, a ring of Gyges;
Which helps conceal, the rights they steal;
These waves belong to you and me.

Hey all you billionaires, hey all you zillionaires;
Like Michael Dell, and Sumner Redstone;
Like Brian Roberts, and Rupert Murdoch;
These waves belong to you and me.

And all you bosses, at TV stations;
I saw you haggling, with politicians;
Exchanging airwaves, for friendly coverage;
These waves belong to you and me.

Hey all you reporters at TV stations;
Should tell the public that they’ve been swindled;
But you won’t bite off, the hand that feeds you;
These waves belong to you and me.

Hey U.S. Congress (and FCC); your airwaves auction;
With math equations, and bid collusions;
With mass evasions, and deal illusions;
These waves belong to you and me.

Hey all you news hounds, who hate injustice;
This corporate welfare is gross injustice;
Hey all you voters, take back your airwaves;
These waves belong to you and me.

The public airwaves; the public airwaves;
From California to the New York island;
From the red wood forests to the Gulf Stream waters;
These waves belong to you and me.

Information about the last tens-of-Billion-dollar public airwaves giveaway to local TV broadcast licensees is contained in the column to the right.

President Obama signing The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, which authorized the giveaway to TV broadcast licensees under the guise of funding middle class tax relief.
President Obama signing The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, which authorized the giveaway to TV broadcast licensees under the guise of funding middle class tax relief.
U.S. Representative Greg Walden (R-OR), Chair of the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology and a champion of the Incentive Auction, speaking at a National Association of Broadcasters event.

September 7, 2016 National Association of Broadcasters event explaining why broadcasters expect to get a federal government windfall whether or not they participate in the Incentive Auction.

 

J.H. Snider reports two profound failures of the U.S. spectrum auction. It will not yield the $billions promised to the U.S. Emergency Service Network or the U.S. Treasury. It will gives $Tens of Billions to station owners, who had no legal claim to permanent use of the public airwaves. Most of the money will go to people like Rupert Murdoch and Brian Roberts. The [opinion] piece is polemical but also accurate.

–Dave Burstein, FastNet News,
October 13, 2016

Digital TV Giveaway
(1996)

(Contained in the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and subsequent FCC regulations implementing it)

 

Snider, J.H., Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick: How Local TV Broadcasters Exert Political Power, iUniverse, 2005. Praise/Book blurbs for Speak Softly can be found here.

speak-softly-and-carry-a-big-stick-medium

A highlight discussed in the book is the letter from Nick Evans to presumptive Republican presidential nominee Robert Dole, who publicly spoke out against the airwaves giveaway to local TV broadcast licensees contained in the Telecommunications Act of 1996.  Nick Evans owned a large chain of local TV stations in states vital to Dole’s presidential campaign.  He also served on the board of the National Association of Broadcasters, the leading trade association that lobbies on behalf of local TV licensees. The NAB never denounced the Evans letter.

Copied below is a facsimile of the letter to Dole followed by extracted highlights.  The full contents of the letter has never previously been published.

[Excerpt below from the letter to Dole.]January 22, 1996

URGENT

The Honorable Robert Dole
United States Senate
141 Senate Hart Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Dole:

I hope you take this letter in the spirit for which it is written….

Your current stance and talk of auctioning spectrum will destroy free over-the-air television and America’s local television stations. I cannot — and will not — sit on the sidelines and allow this to happen….

This is where the hard part comes into play. If over the next few days your position on spectrum has not changed and made public, you will have lost my support. I will be forced to use our resources to tell the viewers in all of our markets of your plan to destroy free over-the-air television. I will be forced to tell the over 700 employees of our company of your plan and encourage their support of another Presidential candidate. I have spoken with many other broadcasters who feel the same as I do. Without speaking for them, I know that they are making the same plans that I am, while wishing and hoping that they can support your race for the Presidency….

I hope you will reconsider your view and position. Providing broadcasters a smooth transition to digital is not “corporate welfare.” It is good business and a necessity for the American consumer and local broadcasters.

My plan is to start our campaign against spectrum auctions and its supporters in the next ten days.

I know that you are very busy, but I would like to hear from you as soon as possible. I would simply like to know if you are with us or against us. I hope that you will find a way to be with us so that we can he with you.

My best wishes to you and your family for a safe and healthy 1996.

Sincerely,

Nick W. Evans, President
Spartan Communications, Inc.
WSPA-TV, Spartanburg, SC • KWCH-TV, Wichita, KS • WJBF·TV, Augusta, GA • WBTW-TV, Florence. SC • WRBL-TV, Columbia, GA • KlMT-TV, Mason City, IA • WMBB-TV, Panama City, FL. KBSH-TV, Haya, KS • KBSD-TV, Dodge City, KS • KBSL-TV, Goodland, KS • WNEC-TV, Toccoa, GA

 Other Related Resources
by J.H. Snider

 

Harvard Veritas LogoJune 2009
Snider, J.H., The switch to digital TV—an early bailout that went awry, Harvard Nieman Watchdog, June 12, 2009.

 

September 2005
Snider, J.H., How Mass Media Use Crisis Communications for Political Gain: The Broadcast Industry, 9/11, and Hurricane Katrina, paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, September 2005.

 

June 2002
Snider, J.H., The Myth of “Free” TV, New America Foundation, June 2002.

 

March 2000 
Snider, J.H., Local TV News Archives as a Public Good, Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics, March 2000.

 

April and August 1997
Snider, J.H., and Benjamin I. Page, Does Media Ownership Affect Media Stands? The Case of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, series of papers on overt and covert media bias published during 1997 at various meetings of the American Political Science Association.

Other Airwaves
Giveaways

 


toc cover
In its lead cover story, Education Week cites J.H. Snider’s critique of another Congressionally sanctioned giveaway of billions of dollars’ worth of airwaves rights—to Educational Broadcast Service licensees. See Doran, Leo, Education Groups Call for FCC Action on Huge Tech Resource, Education Week, October 26, 2016.  Education Week is the leading national newspaper covering K12 education.  Please note that the reporter incorrectly identified John Schwartz, one of the licensees, as Jim Schwartz.

Evans, Donald, D.C. Circuit Finds FCC’s Unlawful Give-Away of Licenses Unreviewable, CommLawBlog, November 17, 2016.  Here is an excerpt describing the courts as feckless with regard to FCC airwaves rights giveaways.
The Court rejected NCTH’s claims, finding that, although the thousands of licenses may have been improperly granted, the FCC has complete discretion as to whether to revisit that matter. Therefore, the court said, the FCC’s decision “not to initiate proceedings to revoke Verizon’s licenses is not subject to judicial review.”

Other Related Resources
by J.H. Snider

 

Harvard Veritas LogoFebruary 2008
Snider, J.H., Is the spectrum just too complex for reporters?, Harvard Nieman Watchdog, June 12, 2009.

 

 

 

July 2003
Snider, J.H., with graphic design by Nigel Holmes and content advice by Coleman Bazelon, Mike Rothkopf, and Bennett Z. Kobb, The Citizens Guide to the Airwaves: A Graphic Depiction of the Uses — and Misuses — of the Radiofrequency Spectrum, July 2003. Praise for The Citizen’s Guide can be found here.