CPB Statement on FCC Announcement on Spectrum Auction Opening Bid Prices

Oct 20, 2015

On October 16, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced opening bid prices for the purchase of broadcast television spectrum in the federal government’s upcoming incentive auction. The prices were set by the FCC to attract broadcaster participation – noncommercial and commercial – in the auction.

Between now and December 18, 2015, many public television stations and their license holders will be evaluating the FCC spectrum auction to determine the best course of action for their viewers and for public media in the communities they serve.

Many of these stations and license holders have been serving their communities, and our nation, for over 50 years with meaningful programming that educates, informs, inspires and entertains, and with free access to online educational resources for students, teachers, and lifelong learners.

Because this spectrum auction is a reverse auction, the opening bid price represents the maximum price that the broadcasters could receive for their spectrum. Nevertheless, the spectrum auction will appear to be generating large payouts to some of the participating license holders. Any notion however, that the entire public media system will benefit from the spectrum auction is misplaced.

Proceeds from the spectrum auction will be unevenly distributed.  Not all public television stations will be able to participate in, or benefit from, the spectrum auction.  In fact, most stations will derive no benefit from the auction.  Further, some non-participating public television stations may incur costs that will not be eligible for federal reimbursement during the repacking stage of the auction process.  

Finally, and most importantly, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) cannot and will not receive proceeds from the spectrum auction. CPB does not hold a broadcast license nor does it control any entity that holds a broadcast license. Moreover, it cannot tell license holders what to do with their auction proceeds. Decisions regarding the use of auction proceeds will be made solely and independently by the license holders and/or their parent entities.

For further information about the spectrum auction you can view an explanatory video here or read a CPB’s white paper, “Facing the Spectrum Incentive Auction and Repacking Process: A Guide for Public Television Stations and Governing Boards (July 2014)”.