Incentive Auction: Webinars and Traveling Show

Posted on January 29th, 2015 by

To help make better sense of its 167-page rulemaking on the Incentive Auction Bidding and Repacking process, the FCC held three webinars in January. As we can observe from our participation, there was not much “new” to glean from the webinars, which essentially summarized the proposed plans for conducting the forward auction, reverse auction and integration/repacking.

In particular, we were surprised at the brevity of the reverse auction webinar presentation, which took only about 15 minutes and simply outlined the bid choices broadcasters will have and described the flexibility of those choices as the auction rounds proceed. Plus, none of the webinars discussed repacking reimbursement mechanisms. And although during the question and answer session staffers invited comments on specific issues, the presentations themselves had a tone of finality (that could just be our skepticism, however).

The auction is currently scheduled to kick off in early 2016. The FCC plans to open a filing window this fall for eligible broadcast stations to indicate their willingness to participate in the auction. With at least 60 days remaining in that filing window, the FCC will announce initial prices, either in a single public document, or individually with broadcasters. Prior to the filing window (likely mid-to-late summer 2015), the FCC will require all broadcasters to file a certification of their licensed operating parameters.

The FCC also announced the dates and markets for their first six local visits to TV markets to explain the incentive auction and meet confidentially with broadcasters (if requested). When initially announced, the FCC indicated it planned to visit at least 50 markets. They will announce the next markets in subsequent notices, one month at a time. We think March, April and May to be very busy for the FCC’s traveling show.

Why is that, you ask? Well, if only six visits per month were scheduled, the FCC wouldn’t finish the visits before the filing window opened. TV stations in the planned 50 markets should keep an eye out for the visit announcements. Important note – in order to find out exactly where the local sessions are being held, or what time, you have to email or call the FCC using the contact info provided. Same thing for setting up a confidential meeting.

Speaking of dates, you can still file comments in the auction procedures rulemaking. The deadlines were extended to February 13, 2015 (initial comments) and March 13, 2015 (reply comments.