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Broadcasting Licenses: Ownership Rights and the Spectrum Rationalization Challenge
Columbia Science and Technology Law Review (2012)
  • J. Armand Musey, CFA
This Article examines the showdown between television broadcast- ers and the government in light of the FCC’s plan to reallocate cur- rently licensed broadcast spectrum to signifcantly higher value mobile broadband use. The government seeks to do so in an economically, socially and legally effcient manner, and has indicated that it seeks a reallocation process that is voluntary for broadcasters. Nonetheless, any spectrum reallocation proceeding raises the question of whether, and to what extent, television broadcasters ultimately possess rights to licensed spectrum, and what type of compensation, if any, they would be owed if the FCC takes their spectrum licenses involuntarily. This Article fnds that broadcasters have a very weak property rights claim over their spectrum licenses. However, broadcasters may be entitled to due process before their licenses can be taken involuntarily; they are almost certainly entitled to seek judicial review of any adverse FCC decisions. Such review would extend the already lengthy FCC rulemaking and adjudication process, and further delay spectrum reas- signment. For practical political reasons, including maximizing revenue from future spectrum auctions, the most expedient way to reallocate spectrum is to incentivize the broadcasters to voluntarily participate in a reallocation plan by providing compensation beyond the legally required minimum. * J. Armand Musey is president and founder of Summit Ridge Group, LLC where he provides valuation and strategic advisory services to companies and investors in the media, telecom and satellite industries. He is a graduate of Northwestern University’s School of Law and its Kellogg Graduate School of Management. Additionally, Mr. Musey holds an M.A. from Columbia University and an A.B. from the University of Chicago. He is also a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA). Special thanks to Prof. James Speta of Northwestern University Law School for his guidance in writing this Article, as well as to attorneys Patrick S. Campbell (Paul Weiss), John K. Hane (Pillsbury Law), Jeffrey H. Olson (St. Ledger-Roty Neuman & Olson LLP) and Brian D. Weimer (Sheppard Mullin) for their advice and feedback on drafts of this Article and to Elizabeth Opper Kraemer for her expert legal editing assistance. The views in this Article and any remaining errors or omissions are entirely my own. 
  • spectrum,
  • spectrum ownership,
  • telecom,
  • broadcasting
Publication Date
Spring September 15, 2012
Publisher Statement
This Article may be cited as volume=13&article=7. This work is made available under the Creative Com- mons Attribution–Non-Commercial–No Derivative Works 3.0 License.
Citation Information
J. Armand Musey. "Broadcasting Licenses: Ownership Rights and the Spectrum Rationalization Challenge" Columbia Science and Technology Law Review Vol. XIII Iss. Spring 2012 (2012)
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