The nation's television industry, continuing a bitter battle with the government over the future of new technologies, has urged the Federal Communications Commission to delay granting Communications Satellite Corp. cauthorization to provide satellite service to homes.
In a rash of comments filed this week with the FCC, the nation's three major television networks, the National Association of Broadcasters and a variety of other industry groups have asked the commission to slow down Comsat's $680 million plan to introduce Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS) services.
"In short, the interim authorization would reflect imprudent, capricious rulemaking," said the NAB.
Even more vitriolic were the comments of the Maryland, District of Columbia and Delaware Broadcasters Association. "Rather than existing for 'complementary' purposes, DBS has the potential for direct competition with local television stations, and would have the ability, in time, to destroy local television broadcasting as the nations now knows it and depends on it," the regional group wrote.
At issue is an ambitious proposal by a Comsat subsidiary, Satellite Television Corp., to offer to millions of homes three new networks via the nation's first television hookup from satellites to homes. Under the plan, consumers would install small receiving dishes atop their homes which would catch satellite signals and convert them into television signals.
But there is no formal regulatory system for handling the DBS technology, although Comsat is arguing for "interim" authority to begin developing the system. The FCC is considering the issue on two fronts, a proceeding on the Comsat authorization and a broader look at the entire issue.
Because the new service will need to utilize part of the satellite broadcasting spectrum, the broadcasting industry is arguing against introduction of the unprecedented system at a time when communications policy makers and a yet-to-be named FCC advisory committee are beginning to grapple with key spectrum-allocation issues to be addressed at a 1983 regional radio conference. Key members of Congress also have suggested that a legislative review of the DBS situation is likely during the current session.
CBS Inc., for instance, noted that the spectrum slots sought by Comsat for the service provide "a rare occurrence in this age of rapidly accelerating services," and that the space should be used for "new and innovative services such as high-definition television."
"CBS believes that it is unwise to authorize one entity to utilize, on any 'interim' or other basis, what could amount to 30 percent of the optimum United States" broadcast satellite services space without further study, the network said in its comments.
The NAB, the industry's leading lobbying arm, sounded a similar warning, noting that authorizing DBS before long-range policy on spectrum allocation is developed "would constitute a rush to judgment with potentially irreparable consequences."
Comsat's opponents further argue that granting interim authorization for the service sought by the District-based satellite services company will give the go-ahead for a massive expenditure that would be difficult to reverse.
Noting the size of the planned investment, CBS said that the Comsat proposal "cannot and most certainly will not be considered 'interim' in nature and that any interim license" would "determine the course" of the technology in the future.