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D.C. looks to spectra to boost dwindling till

The Clinton administration opposes requiring TV stations to pay for spectra to transmit programs in a digital format, but supports public interest obligations on broadcasters who get free spectra.

That was the word from Larry Irving, the White House’s top telecommunications adviser, who testified Sept. 7 before the House telecommunications subcommittee chaired by Rep. Jack Fields (R-Texas).

Fields’ panel is charged with raising $14 billion over the next seven years in spectra-related revenue to meet deficit reduction goals set by the new Republican leadership. One option being kicked around D.C. is a plan requiring broadcasters to bid on the right to spectra that the Federal Communications Commission has set aside for an industry transition to the delivery of HDTV and other advanced TV programming.

Two witnesses testified against a free giveaway of spectra to broadcasters. They were James Gattuso, veepee of the D.C. think tank Citizens for a Sound Economy; and Dale Hatfield, head of a telecommunications consulting firm.

Irving however, said the White House supports allowing broadcasters free access to a second swathe of spectra. But he hinted that the free spectra should come only after TV stations agree to meet certain public interest requirements.

Fields was mum on whether he supports charging broadcasters for access to the transitional spectra.

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