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Public-airwaves auction report advances to full council Monday

SEATTLE (March 11, 2016) — The Metropolitan King County Council’s Government Accountability and Oversight Committee voted unanimously (3-0) on Tuesday for a report on the potential impact of the impending broadcast spectrum auction on the hundreds of thousands of taxpayers, residents and businesses of King County. Community groups, along with elected representatives, will now present the motion to the full council on Monday, March 14.

KING5-studioThe upcoming auction of federally licensed broadcasting frequencies led by the Federal Communications Commission has raised alarm among the community, council members and labor groups. Corporate speculators of the public airwaves are looking to make a huge profit without regard to the potential impact such a purchase and reshuffling of spectrum would have on local residents and businesses. Handing such a valuable public asset over to the highest bidder has the potential for irreparable damage to the community that depends on these emergency spectrum airwaves in case of a public disaster.

TAKE A STAND — Union members and community supporters are urged to show solidarity by attending the Monday, March 14 meeting at 1:30 p.m. at 516 Third Ave., 10th Floor, in Seattle.

“I’m so pleased that the King County GAO Committee recognized the important role our local stations play in our community. In terms of the County’s disaster preparedness responsibilities, our local news outlets provide a vital service,” said IBEW Local 46 Business Representative Angela Marshall, a backer of the report. “Next Monday’s vote is a vital step toward our community taking back the destiny of our airwaves. The spectrum auction, as planned, exacerbates media monopolization, consolidation, and greed. It incentivizes stations to go off air and to instead disseminate information via cable and Internet, where there are no community license or regulatory obligations.”

The auction is scheduled to begin on March 29 and concerned groups believe local stations like Seattle’s KING 5 are first in line to be auctioned off by greedy speculators. These stations are required by federal law to inform and educate the community over the public airwaves. That could all be gone when these broadcast frequencies are sold off to private businesses.

King County Councilmember Dave Upthegrove is sponsoring the motion. Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant and former Councilmember Nick Licata are also on board, speaking out against the possible sale of the public air space at town hall meetings last September.

Members from the following organizations have demonstrated support of these efforts: Washington Federation of State Employees, UFCW Local 21, IBEW locals 46 and 77, SPEEA-IFPTE Local 2001, IATSE Local 600, Teamsters Local 117, as well as the M.L. King County Labor Council and the Washington State Labor Council.

ALSO at The Stand — Urge King Co. to study impact of public-airwave auction (March 7, 2016)

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