Former Disney and News Corp. lobbyist Preston Padden is fronting a new organization for TV station owners interested in participating in the Federal Communications Commission's efforts to buy broadcast spectrum that it can auction off to wireless companies.
So far, few broadcasters have publicly expressed a desire to sell either some or all of their spectrum. The FCC wants the spectrum because it fears there is a shortage looming given the explosion of mobile devices, especially in big cities. The spectrum has been valued at $25 billion and the potential cut for TV stations is $1.75 billion.
Many broadcasters have said there is no such shortage but the industry has agreed to take part in a voluntary spectrum auction.
The organization, dubbed the "Expanding Opportunities for Broadcasters Coalition," said its founding members "include television broadcast stations that under the right conditions, would like to participate in the auction." Padden declined to say which broadcasters he is working with, citing the confidentiality requirements of the FCC's auction process.
Padden, who retired from Walt Disney Co. in 2009 and is now a senior fellow and adjunct professor at the University of Colorado Law School, said in an interview Tuesday that he was drawn to the position because "this is going to be one of the most interesting telecom issues of the next few years."
He added that "if the auction is going to be a success, it has to be structured in a way that entices willing broadcasters to participate."
There were mumblings around Washington soon after the Padden announcement came out that the organization was in fact being funded by the wireless communications industry.
Padden called such speculation "ridiculous" and "completely made up."
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