With the Thursday release of an official public notice, the Incentive Auction Task Force (IATF) and Media Bureau (MB), in conjunction with the Office of Economics and Analytics (OEA), have set the procedures, terms and conditions, together with the minimum opening bid amounts, for the upcoming auction of construction permits for low power television (LPTV) stations and TV translator stations.
Bidding in this auction is scheduled to start on September 10.
What is being dubbed “Auction 104” is a closed auction; only those individuals or entities listed in Attachment A to this Public Notice are eligible to complete the remaining steps to become applicants qualified to bid in this auction for the construction permit for which each is listed.
Why is the auction being held?
Certain LPTV/translator stations were displaced by the broadcast incentive auction (Auction 1000), which repurposed 84 megahertz of the 600 MHz band spectrum that had been allocated for broadcast television use and which resulted in the channel reassignments of certain full power and Class A television stations.
As a result of the repurposing of the 600 MHz band and the channel reassignments, a number of LPTV/translator stations, which are secondary in nature and are not entitled
to protection from primary services under our current rules, were displaced from their channels.
The Commission adopted procedures for LPTV/translator stations to apply for new channels and took other steps to mitigate the impact of this displacement.
On February 9, 2018, IATF and MB announced a special displacement application filing
window for eligible LPTV/translator stations (Special Displacement Window).
The filing window was open from April 10, 2018, through June 1, 2018. A displacement applicant was required to file Schedule C (Schedule for a Construction Permit for a LPTV or TV Translator Broadcast Station) of FCC Form 2100 (Application for Media Bureau Video Service Authorization). Those filings enabled staff to determine which of applicants’ engineering proposals were mutually exclusive with other applicants’ proposals.
The Commission received over 2,160 applications during the Special Displacement Window.
Upon review of the applications, staff determined that there were 71 MX groups of applications, consisting of 170 applications that were mutually exclusive (MX) with at least one other application. Absent a resolution by applicants of the mutual exclusivity of their applications, MX station applications are subject to the Commission’s competitive bidding rules and procedures.
Accordingly, on October 30, 2018, IATF and MB opened a settlement window to afford an opportunity for the 170 applicants with MX applications to resolve such mutual exclusivity by settlement or technical modification of their engineering proposals.
The Settlement Window closed on January 10.
On March 29, 2019, IATF, MB, and OEA released a public notice seeking comment on competitive bidding procedures to be used in Auction 104 to resolve the then-remaining MX applications, which consisted of six MX groups.
Five entities with pending MX LPTV applications filed six comments and/or reply comments in response to the Auction 104 Comment Public Notice.
Several commenters request that the Commission resolve outstanding pleadings that were
filed against applicants in the MX groups prior to the start of the auction to provide potential bidders with greater certainty and to encourage settlements.
On April 26, the Media Bureau issued rulings denying the outstanding pleadings.
In light of those actions, comments seeking action on the informal objections are now moot. In addition, Venture argues that the Commission should allow those decisions,
and any subsequent petitions for reconsideration or applications for review, to become final before the auction begins.
The Media Bureau has acted on all outstanding pleadings and settlement proposals that
involve parties that can become eligible to bid in Auction 104.
It notes, “It is well settled that the Commission does not routinely delay the offering of spectrum licenses or construction permits while it resolves all pending administrative challenges and such challenges, and even judicial appeals, may often be associated with licenses offered at auction.
In order to promptly resolve these mutually exclusive applications for LPTV/translator stations facing displacement and the loss of service to viewers, we deny Venture’s
request and will not delay bidding to await final resolution of any such legal challenges.
Media Bureau announced on March 19 that a freeze was lifted on the filing of displacement and digital companion channel applications related to LPTV/translator stations effective
April 18, 2019.
Applicants listed in Attachment A may continue to enter into and submit settlement
agreements for their MX Groups until the July 22 at 6 p.m., short-form application deadline for Auction 104 announced herein.
At that point, the prohibition on certain communications between auction applicants will apply and no further discussions with other Auction 104 applicants regarding the auction, including settlements and bids or bidding strategies, will be permitted until after the close of the auction when the prohibition no longer applies.
Thus, after 6 p.m. on July 22, applicants listed in Attachment A will not be able to resolve their application’s mutual exclusivity except through the competitive bidding process described herein, including payment of the applicable minimum opening bid.
“Venture appears to misunderstand the scope of the rule prohibiting certain communications when it cites 47 CFR § 1.2105(c) in support of its assertion that the Commission should restrict certain parties from entering into a pre-auction settlement agreement because that rule does not take effect until the short-form application filing deadline,” the Media Bureau says.
In regard to Venture’s request that the Commission “verify that the license of each applicant is valid and in good standing before proceeding with the auction,” the Bureau observes that it has acted on all outstanding pleadings and settlement proposals that
involve Auction 104 applicants.