Religious TV Stations Fight for Broadband Space

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With mobile and Web technology continuing to develop, the airspace or "spectrum" once used primarily by television stations to transmit content is getting crowded.

Now, broadband companies want the smaller stations to get out of their way.

The Federal Communications Commission has proposed auctioning off some of the spectrum currently being used by "low power" television stations -- many of which serve religious or minority audiences.

"We think it's unfair for any broadcaster, whether low power or the bigger ones, to be forced or coerced even indirectly into giving up spectrum," said Craig Parshall, senior vice president and general counsel for the National Religious Broadcasters.

Click play to watch Paul Strand's report followed by comments from Rod Payne, owner of a low power television station.

Former FCC official Blair Levin is working on the vast auction proposal. Broadband companies would buy up the spectrum from broadcasters.

Blair admitted many TV stations will likely get bumped off the public airwaves, but said it's a vital change.

"Back when we originally allocated spectrum to radio, to television, I don't think there was anyone who was predicting the iPad. I don't think anyone was predicting the iPhone," Levin explained. "I don't think anyone was predicting Netflix streaming videos through the airwaves. These are huge bandwidth hogs."

Broadcaster Greg Herman said he worries the move is just a few massive companies sweeping away many of the free, diverse broadcast stations that now exist.

"If all they're really looking at is compressing them and eliminating them, I think that's a tremendous threat to free speech in general in this country," Herman said.

When it's all over Herman added that he expects "higher prices, less diverse voices."

"I think we could lose thousands of stations," he continued.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the last thing America needs is the FCC, "running roughshod over local broadcasters who've been serving their communities with free content for decades."

But Levin said he believes change has to come because the public now needs broadband Internet more than it needs low power religious and minority TV stations.

"There's not a block of Washington, D.C., or a block of any other city that has the same real estate and buildings that it had 60 years ago," Levin said.

"I don't think it's appropriate for an industry to say that the government has to protect them from changes in the marketplace," he said.

Parshall points out most Christian broadcasters don't want protection -- they want to broadcast.

"We're in for the mission. We're in for the message of Jesus Christ," he said. "We have an eternity-changing message. Nothing could be more important (and) of more public value than that."

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Paul  Strand

Paul Strand

CBN News Washington Sr. Correspondent

As senior correspondent in CBN's Washington, D.C., bureau, Paul Strand has covered a variety of political and social issues, with an emphasis on defense, justice, and Congress.  Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulStrandCBN and "like" him at