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L.A. Stations to Share a Channel in Prelude to Spectrum Auction

Two Los Angeles stations will share their spectrum in a pilot project designed to show that such a technological feat is possible and generate momentum for a planned government auction of broadcast airwaves.

Public TV station KLCS and Spanish language broadcaster KJLA are sharing their channel, and are intent on showing that it can be done without interference or degrading the signal. The pilot project is being sponsored by CTIA-The Wireless Assn., the trade association that has an interest in seeing that the FCC’s upcoming incentive auction includes as many stations as possible that are giving up their spectrum. The idea is that each of the stations could make do with less spectrum.

The plans are for the testing to start in the next three months, pending approval from the FCC. KLCS will carry KJLA’s content and transmit it on a shared stream, but they promise that there will be “no impact” on viewers during the test.

Steve Largent, the president and CEO of CTIA, said that they are “confident this will be a successful test that will be copied throughout the country.”

The FCC plans to hold an “incentive” auction in 2015 in which broadcaster will voluntarily give up their spectrum in exchange for sharing in the proceeds when that airspace is auctioned off for wireless use. But there has been concern that not enough stations will participate. For some, it would mean going out of business. That is why the agency has been also promoting the idea of channel-sharing arrangements.

Dennis Wharton, spokesman for the National Assn. of Broadcasters, said that a concern for stations is that such sharing arrangements will limit what stations can do as technology changes. Broadcasters have been rolling out more mobile offerings, for instance. He also said that there are contractual provisions that would need to be addressed for stations that seek to share their airspace.

But the idea has the support of some key lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Commerce Committee, and Rep. Greg Walden (R-Oregon), chairman of the Commerce communications and technology subcommittee, praised the test and called on the FCC to quickly approve the trial.

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