Major-market stations join to sell spectrum at FCC auction

A new group of broadcasters — calling themselves the Expanding Opportunities for Broadcasters Coalition — have told the FCC they have 39 stations in the top 12 markets that will participate in the upcoming wireless spectrum auctions.

“We believe there will be enough broadcasters to meet the goal of the FCC’s national broadband plan,” Preston Padden, a former top Fox and Disney executive and head of the coalition, told Adweek. “We’re not yet there, but we’re getting close.”

Padden told the advertising publication that not all of his stations are selling out completely, though he said knows of public stations looking for a complete sale.

More broadcasters will sign on if the FCC makes its offer a bit more attractive, Padden said.

“We told the FCC that they should think about what they’re going to pay these willing stations," he said. "They should think about the value of the spectrum for the wireless, not the broadcasting, business.”

The number of stations to participate in the auction was revealed in a filing on the framework of the auctions by the coalition to the FCC. The group wants the FCC to reclaim at least 120MHz of spectrum and to make the auction as attractive as possible by not limiting wireless bidders or to name who specific stations can share spectrum with.

To honor the confidentiality requirements of the Spectrum Act and the confidentiality discussion in the FCC’s rulemaking procedures, the coalition would not disclose the identity of its members.

”These are ongoing broadcast businesses with employees, advertisers and viewers," Padden said. "The need for confidentiality is obvious."

The coalition is a substitute for the NAB, the primary representative of broadcasters. The NAB has focused on protecting existing broadcasters seeking to remain in business. The coalition is focused on helping broadcasters participate in the auction.

”The Coalition not only believes that the Commission should reallocate 120MHz of broadcast spectrum for wireless broadband; the Coalition believes that the FCC can,“ the broadcasters said in their filing. ”The Coalition not only believes that the Commission should raise billions of dollars in surplus funds for the construction of a national public safety broadband network; the Coalition believes that the FCC can. And, the Coalition not only believes that the Commission should raise additional funds for deficit reduction; the Coalition believes that the FCC can.“

The coalition wants the FCC to calculate the auction closing conditions on a national basis, meaning that payments to broadcasters in the largest markets could exceed revenues from resale of that spectrum.

“Payments to stations in the very largest markets add value to the spectrum in all the other markets and are the key to generating wireless auction revenue nationwide,” the filing said.

The groups asked the FCC to get rid of a proposed requirement that spectrum-sharers have to come from the same market. Doing this, they said, will encourage more stations to opt in for sharing.

The value of stations, the coalition said, should to be determined by how removing a station impacts the FCC’s ability to clear spectrum for wireless services, rather than enterprise value, signal strength or other factors. In that case, a small, independent station would be just as valuable as that of a larger network affiliate since both use the same amount of spectrum.

The FCC, the coalition noted, needs to resolve spectrum coordination issues with Canada and Mexico as soon as possible.

"The FCC should strive to resolve these border issues as quickly as possible to the extent that they could affect the incentive auction and the corresponding repacking of the broadcast spectrum,“ the coalition said.