Milwaukee PBS GM testifies on repack

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Bohdan Zachary

The general manager of Milwaukee PBS is asking federal lawmakers to consider relying on public televisions to take the lead on public education efforts regarding the spectrum repack.

Bohdan Zachary testified Tuesday to the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology about his experience with a frequency change in the Milwaukee market earlier this year. Milwaukee Area Technical College relinquished Channel 36, one of the station’s two channels, in the auction. Both channels now share Channel 10.

The hearing was on implementation of RAY BAUM’s Act, which includes $50 million for consumer education on channel reassignments.

Zachary told the committee Milwaukee PBS underwent an extensive public education effort because of the frequency change. The campaign lasted three months and included spots and a phone bank that generated 800 calls, with some calls lasting as long as an hour.

Zachary thanked the committee for support of repack education funding. He said their experience with a frequency change shows the importance of a well-planned and properly funded public education effort.

“We were able to use auction proceeds to finance our consumer education program,” Zachary said. “Many other public television stations do not have such resources to deploy, yet they have the same urgent need to educate their viewers and donors about their new position on the ‘dial.’”

He said public broadcasters can play a role in helping with public education in markets throughout the country. He asked the committee to dedicate a significant portion of the $50 million for consumer education to local outreach initiatives coordinated through public television stations on behalf of all the stations in their markets.

Also appearing before the panel were Curtis LeGeyt, EVP of government relations for the National Association of Broadcasters; Tim Donovan, senior VP for legislative affairs with Competitive Carriers Association; and Jeff Cohen, chief counsel for the Association of Public Safety Communication Officials International.

Watch his testimony here.