Interested in a brand new full power digital television station in Atlantic City, New Jersey, or Seaford, Delaware? Then the FCC has just what you’re looking for, provided that you’re ready, willing, and able to build the station from the ground up and don’t mind a low VHF channel. The Commission today issued the first auction notice regarding Auction No. 90 for the auction of two new full power commercial television stations. Having amended the DTV Table of Allotments earlier this year to drop in DTV Channel 4 at Atlantic City, New Jersey, and DTV Channel 5 at Seaford, Delaware, the Commission has moved quickly to the competitive bidding stage and starting the process to offer these new channels to interested parties. Today’s Public Notice is the first step in the auction process and seeks comment on the rules and procedures for the auction, including the proposed minimum opening bid amounts that it has set for each station, namely, $200,000. The auction rules proposed by the Public Notice are consistent with those used in other recent broadcast auctions and don’t really offer any surprises. The Commission does not propose a date for the proposed auction and that will be set by a future auction Notice. Comments on the Commission’s proposed auction procedures and minimum bid amounts are due by September 30th, with replies due by October 15th.
By allocating and offering these new VHF channels for commercial television operations, the Commission is satisfying Section 331 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, which directs the Commission to allot at least one VHF TV channel to each state to the extent technically feasible. Given the recent and ongoing debate over the possible reclamation of television spectrum or changes to the television interference protections, it seems a bit counter-intuitive that the Commission is moving quickly to offer these two new full power TV stations, particularly in the (generally speaking) congested Mid-Atlantic Region. Further, given the issues encountered by other DTV stations in operating on low VHF channels, Channels 4 and 5 may not be seen as prime spectrum, again particularly in the congested Northeast. Both of those things said, however, a full power TV station is still a full power TV station. And cable and satellite must-carry rights are hard to come by, not to mention the fact that the stations are located in Atlantic City, NJ and central Delaware, respectively. So unless something radical happens in the next 12 months — say like all consumers migrating to the consumption of television via the Internet instead of broadcast, cable, or satellite television — it’s likely that there will be a fair bit of interest in the auction of these two new stations.