Are TV station owners selling the public airwaves to pay-TV companies?

This is archived content from Digital TV Facts. For up-to-date information on the digital TV transition, see the federal government’s site,

[Editor’s note: This FAQ was about USDTV, which ceased operations in March 2007.]

In some cases, yes.

Broadcasters in some cities lease out part of their FCC-allocated spectrum to USDTV, a multichannel pay-TV service. (The service is currently available in four local television markets.)

That spectrum could instead be used to provide free TV—including multicasts or HDTV—to any household that wants it.

What’s the other side of this story? Well, broadcasters have spent millions to upgrade their stations to digital TV, as required by law. And the free digital TV channels they offer were slow to catch on with most viewers.

For that you could blame the FCC, Congress, or the consumer electronics industry. But don’t broadcasters share in the blame?