As we accelerate toward next year’s planned TV incentive auction, it seems like there is news almost every day of interest to television broadcasters who may be affected by the FCC’s efforts to clear TV spectrum so that it can be repurposed for wireless broadband use and sold to wireless companies and the subsequent repacking of remaining TV stations into a smaller TV band. Some of the broadcasters most directly affected by the auction and repacking will be LPTV stations who, thus far, have been promised no compensation should their operations be displaced by the repacking of the TV band, and offered no promises that they will have channels on which they can operate after the auction. The issues for LPTV stations, and the FCC’s proposals to deal with them, were to be addressed at a webinar on Tuesday, but the session was cancelled when the Federal government shut down because of snow in the DC area. The FCC yesterday announced that the webinar has been rescheduled for next Tuesday, February 24 – details in the Public Notice here. We wrote about the FCC’s rulemaking looking at what to do with LPTV stations after the auction here.
One of the big questions that many broadcasters have asked since the FCC rolled out the recent Greenhill Report (see our article here), setting out expected opening prices that will be offered to TV stations to surrender their TV channel, was how many stations could actually expect to be bought out in any market. The NAB released a study yesterday, suggesting that in some markets, it is very likely that the FCC will not need to buy out any stations, whether the auction tries to clear 120 MHz (20 TV channels, the maximum that the FCC has looked at clearing) or only 84 MHz (which some have thought was a more realistic goal). On the other hand, in several large markets and in markets in congested spectrum areas near some of those large markets, the FCC may need to get more than half of the stations in those markets to give up their licenses. The NAB computations are taken from FCC data, and the NAB provides many disclaimers that this information may change as auction plans change over time as different assumptions are made, and also are very dependent on the number of participants in adjoining markets. But the study is nevertheless one that gives some broadcasters an idea of how likely it is for them to really need to be an auction participant. See the NAB explanation of their procedures here, and the complete market-by-market chart of likely TV clearing needs here. Continue Reading