TV Incentive Auction Almost Ready For Primetime

Posted on August 31st, 2015 by

On a 3-2 vote divided on party lines, the FCC adopted a controversial auction bidding procedures public notice in early August, setting the stage for the first steps of the TV incentive auction to begin on March 29, 2016. A few days later, the Chair of the Spectrum Auction Task Force, Gary Epstein blogged about what’s next. A few more steps must be taken before next March.

First, the FCC will issue an Application Procedures notice in the “early fall” that will describe the nuts and bolts of the auction application process and post-auction procedures. This notice will have the opening dates for the application filing windows, filing deadlines and mock auction schedule. It will also list the information that will be required on the auction application forms.

Next, the FCC will publicly announce the reverse auction opening bid prices for all broadcasters. That announcement will come no later than 60 days before the auction application filing deadline.

After the auction application filing deadline, the FCC will review the applications for completeness and accuracy, and broadcasters will have an opportunity to make minor modifications or corrections. By March 29, 2016, each broadcaster that has completed an application must commit to its preferred initial bid option. That commitment binds the broadcaster to relinquishing its spectrum usage rights at the opening price applicable to its preferred option. If during the auction, the price offered to the broadcaster drops, the broadcasters is no longer bound to relinquish its spectrum unless it elects to remain in the auction at the lower price.

Once the FCC has collected broadcaster commitments, it will determine the initial clearing target and band plan. Participants will then have an opportunity to participate in a mock auction (some are calling for more than one mock auction), and then the actual reverse auction rounds will begin.

There will be a few workshops this fall, including one each on the reverse and forward auctions. There will also be on-line interactive auction tutorials, which will walk potential reverse and forward auction participants through the application and bidding processes.