An auction of new FM channels was scheduled to begin in late April (see our posts here and here). Yesterday, the FCC issued a Public Notice indefinitely delaying that auction. Apparently, the FCC needs to have staff physically present in its Washington, DC building in order to conduct an auction, and with the
112 new FM channels will be available in the next auction for new FM channels (referred to by the FCC as "Auction 94") to be held beginning April 23, 2013. To participate, interested parties must file their "short form" applications – setting out information about the ownership of the applicant and the channels in which they are interested – by February 6, 2003. All of the procedures for the auction are set out in the order released late Wednesday, available here. The locations of the available channels, authorizing the winners to build new FM stations serving the named communities and the nearby area, are also set out in this attachment to the order. The notice adopts many of the same procedures set out when the Commission first proposed the auction back in September (see our article here). However, the Commission pushed the auction back the initially scheduled date for the auction by about a month to avoid religious holidays and the NAB Convention, ending up with the new starting date of April 23. The Commission also pushed back other dates associated with the auction, deleted a handful of channels that had been proposed for inclusion in the auction but had not been properly published in the Federal Register, and announced other decisions relating to the auction – all with many cautions for those who may be bidding about the possible pitfalls of the auction process.
The relevant auction dates are as follows:
Auction Tutorial Available (via Internet) …………………….January 28, 2013
Short-Form Application (FCC Form 175)
Filing Window Opens ……………………………………………….January 28, 2013; 12:00 noon ET
Short-Form Application (FCC Form 175)
Filing Window Deadline……………………………………………February 6, 2013; prior to 6:00 p.m. ET
Upfront Payments (via wire transfer)…………………………..March 18, 2013; 6:00 p.m. ET
Mock Auction ………………………………………………………….April 19, 2013
Auction Begins…………………………………………………………April 23, 2013
The most important dates for bidders are the deadline for the submission of the "short-form" application of February 6, the date for the Upfront Payments, and of course the dates for the start of the auction itself. The short-form lists the owners, any bidding agreements that the parties have with other bidders, and the channels in which the party is interested in bidding. The bidder can also submit specific proposed transmitter site coordinates for any channel in which they are bidding, which protects those named sites from moves by other existing stations that could otherwise preclude their use. The failure to meet this February 6 deadline means that a party cannot participate in the auction.
Interested in a new FM radio station? Now might be your chance. The Commission today announced an upcoming auction, designated as FCC Auction No. 91, offering licenses for 147 new FM channels in various communities across the country. The auction will begin on March 29. Today’s public notice merely lists the channels to be auctioned and the proposed minimum bid in the auction to be associated with each channel, and asks for comments on the procedures that will apply in conducting the auction. We would expect that applications to participate in the auction will probably be due sometime in or around January, 2011. The list of the 147 licenses to be offered for sale is available here. The FCC Public Notice asking for comment on the auction procedures is available here.
Parties who are interested in bidding for any of these channels will be able to submit short form applications indicating the channels in which they are interested. As stated above, we would expect these applications will be due sometime early in 2011, so that the FCC can process those applications and receive the necessary upfront payments from parties interested in the auction in time for the auction itself to begin in March. Thus, parties who are interested in any of these channels should start their due diligence process now, and determine which channels may be of interest, and which channels can actually be built in such a way as to cover areas that an applicant may want to serve, so that they can be ready to file their applications.
The FCC has released a public notice asking for comment on the procedures that it plans to use for a new FM auction now scheduled to be held in September. The channels to be included in that auction, and the proposed minimum bids for those channels, can be found on a list released by the Commission, here. Parties who are interested in bidding for any of these channels will be able to submit short form applications indicating the channels in which they are interested at some point to be determined in the future – probably late Spring or early Summer, so that the FCC can process those applications and receive the necessary upfront payments from parties interested in the auction in time for the auction itself to begin in September. Thus, parties who are interested in any of these channels should start their due diligence process now, and determine which channels may be of interest, and which channels can actually be built in such a way as to cover areas that an applicant may want to serve, so that they can be ready to file their applications, probably in May or June.
Applications, when filed, will not need to specify a specific transmitter site but, once the auction is over, winning bidders will need to quickly identify and file complete applications containing specific transmitter sites for which they have reasonable assurance. Thus, they should begin preparations for the auction now. Applicants who have identified a site can specify that site in their applications to protect it from subsequent applications. Thus, FM broadcasters should also anticipate a freeze on the filing of any FM technical applications at some point in late Spring in anticipation of the auction, in order to give applicants a stable technical situation so that they can identify usable transmitter sites.