TV Auction Filing Window Remains Open Until January 12, 2016

Posted on December 31st, 2015 by

The window for eligible full power and Class A television stations to file FCC Form 177 has been open since December 8, 2015 and will close at 6 p.m. EDT on January 12, 2016. Stations that do not file an application in the window will have made final decisions not to participate in the auction. Stations filing the Form 177 will preserve their right to participate in the auction, but can still decide not to participate by not submitting an initial preferred bidding option by the March 29, 2016 deadline.

The application form is accessed through the FCC’s auction portal using a station’s FRN and password. From there, the form is a self-guided, multi-screen process that includes alerts about various requirements and any errors. A status bar update tells the user whether the form has been submitted or not.

The process has not been without glitches. In the first 48 hours of availability, the FCC’s system was pretty temperamental, kicking out users for no apparent reason. That issue appears to have been resolved, but may have been due to the number of users at the time. For that reason, we caution stations not to wait until the last minute to file the Form 177, as things might get crowded then and bump up against the hard January 12th deadline.

Another glitch we noted (and the FCC sheepishly admitted) was a difference between a question asked during the form filing process and the wording of that same question on the printed version of a draft or submitted form. The question addressed a station’s post-auction channel sharing intentions, asking during the application process whether a station had “a present intention” of channel sharing post-auction, but printing out as whether a station wished to “reserve a right” to channel share post-auction. That glitch is now fixed, and the correct question – whether a station has a “present intention” to channel share post- auction – now appears in both the online application and printed version. Regardless of how this question is answered, stations will be completely free to decide whether or not to channel share post-auction.

The FCC has also given stations a brief overview of what will follow the FCC Form 177 filing window, and in particular how a station will place its initial and follow-on bids in the window. Participating stations should review Section III of the public notice to learn about post-filing window communications from the FCC and the issuance and use of SecureID tokens to place bids.

Formal FCC guidance regarding license assignments and transfers of control during the reverse auction became available December 17, 2015, and expanded upon a brief mention of the FCC’s policies hidden in the FCC’s earlier guidance on prohibited communications. The other thing that caught our ear in the past few weeks was a statement made by FCC staff during the Form 177 filing webinar that the auction will proceed regardless of pending petitions for reconsideration or legal challenges to the FCC’s earlier TV auction orders. We note that a legal challenge pending in the DC Circuit regarding certain Class A stations’ eligibility to participate has been placed on an expedited briefing schedule that ends in mid-March 2016, and we expect the DC Circuit to rule quickly in that proceeding. The FCC will likely act on pending petitions for reconsideration before the March 29, 2016 deadline for stations to submit initial bids.

Stations should routinely monitor the FCC’s Reverse Auction web page for all deadlines, plus the latest developments and announcements.