TV Auction Filing Window Announced

Posted on October 30th, 2015 by

In another hefty public notice, the FCC has announced that the filing window for full power and Class A television stations to participate in the 2016 TV Incentive Auction will open at 12 noon ET on December 1, 2015 and close at 6 pm ET on December 18, 2015. If a station does not file an application during this window to become a qualified bidder in the auction, it will have made a final decision not to participate in the auction.

But the flip side is not true. Stations submitting an application to become a qualified bidder will not be making an irreversible decision to participate in the auction. They have until March 29, 2016 to do that, which is the deadline by when applicants will have to submit their preferred opening round bidding option to remain qualified to bid. So let’s review. A station can file an application in the December 2015 window, and then later decide to back out by simply not submitting its preferred bidding option by the March 29, 2016 deadline.

Stations filing in the December window will be using FCC Form 177, which has not yet been released. Yes, we find that quizzical (and perhaps a bit bizarre) too, but the notice does at least describe some of the types of information that will be required. And to help even more, the FCC has just announced a November 17th webinar to help filers understand the form and the filing process so as to avoid errors. Are filers required to attend or watch the webinar? No. But the FCC strongly encourages it. We think that is a good idea, too.

For stations that want to enter into pre-auction channel share agreements, efforts should already be under way to finalize those agreements in writing because executed, un-redacted versions of channel share agreements must be submitted with a station’s Form 177 in the December filing window. If you wait until the last day of the window to file (something we do not recommend), you have roughly 50 days remaining to negotiate and sign those agreements.

In case you were expecting smooth sailing and calm in the weeks and months to come before the March 29, 2016 deadline for stations to submit their preferred bidding option, you would be mistaken. The FCC will continue to issue orders, notices, reconsideration decisions, instructions, clarifications, etc. during that period. So stations should stay plugged in. There will also be webinars to watch.

One more thing before we go. The close of the December filing window will mark the start of the “quiet period” under the FCC’s anti-collusion rules. What does that mean? Well, we recommend your careful reading (and sharing with others in your organization) of this public notice, which provides some interpretive guidance on the nature and scope of prohibited communications during the quiet period.

Those prohibitions certainly apply to auction participants. You don’t want to trip over these rules, and you come to your attention. For good measure, we’ll include the link again. Now for our friendly instructions. Read. Repeat.

Exhausted yet? While we don’t advise on health matters, you might want to consider some vitamins, orange juice, strong coffee and energy boosters for the months to come. We suspect they’ll be needed.