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KCET, KLCS to Share Channel and Give Up Spectrum for Auction

KCETLink, which was owner of Los Angeles’ flagship PBS affiliate until it went independent in 2011, said that it has reached an agreement with public educational station KLCS-TV to share a single, over the air broadcast channel and will give up 6 MHz of spectrum to be sold in the FCC’s upcoming incentive auction.

KCET and KLCS will continue to operate under separate non-commercial, educational broadcast licenses. But they are taking advantage of the FCC’s offer for stations to share their spectrum, after a pilot project between KLCS and KJLA, another public station, was deemed a success. It showed that it was “technically possible” to combine two HD video streams into a single channel.

KLCS is licensed to the Los Angeles Unified School District, and the school board approved a memorandum of understanding on Tuesday to move forward with the agreement. KCETLink’s board also approved the deal.

One of the obvious advantages to the arrangement is money: Stations that give up their spectrum will share in the proceeds of the auction. The FCC plans to hold the auction — in which broadcast spectrum will be sold to wireless providers — some time next year. That could be delayed if the National Assn. of Broadcasters is successful in its challenge to the auction plans, having filed suit last month in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“We are pleased to forge this bold partnership with KLCS and chart new waters together,” said KCETlink President and CEO Al Jerome. “We will certainly benefit from KLCS’ test program and appreciate the station’s leadership. We feel the spectrum auction is a great opportunity to potentially gain significant resources that we can reinvest into programs and activities we provide to the community in support of our mission.”

Sabrina Fair Thomas, KLCS’ general manager, said that the agreement will allow the two stations to “fully leverage our combined technological acumen, while maintaining the integrity of our respective licenses and identities.” KLCS is a member of PBS.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler issued a comment on the new sharing arrangement, hoping that it will lead others to participate in the incentive auction. “When I visited KLCS last spring, I was impressed that channel sharing worked so seamlessly and opened the door to new business models for broadcasters. It’s a compelling opportunity for broadcasters to continue their existing business on a shared channel, and take home a check for the spectrum they relinquish in the incentive auction. It is my hope that other broadcasters give it careful consideration as well.”

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