When the FCC announced last week that bidding by wireless carriers in the forward auction was sufficient to meet its obligations to pay the broadcasters who sold stations in the reverse auction and cover repacking and administrative costs, it essentially closed the reverse auction. So, the winning broadcasters now know who they are and what they will be paid for their stations.
But under the FCC-imposed "quiet period" aimed at preventing collusion among broadcasters during the entire auction process, the winning broadcasters can't tell anybody.
What's more, adhering to its strict procedures, the FCC is not likely to announce the winners and how much they will be paid for their stations until March, according to auction watchers inside and outside the FCC.
The public notice with the winners will also include how many stations and which stations will have to migrate to new channels in the repacking of the TV band.
Why the delay?
Before that tell-all public notice goes out, a couple of things have to happen.
First, the FCC has to close the forward auction and it will not do that until demand for spectrum is exhausted in every market and no more bids are coming in. That will take several more days — at least.
After that, the FCC will conduct a third auction, in which winning wireless carriers may bid for specific frequencies. That could take four to six weeks — two to three for prepping carriers on how to bid and two or three weeks for the auction itself.
That means the tell-all public notice will not come out until late February or early March at the earliest.
Broadcasters will know more sooner than that. Within the next three weeks or so, the FCC will send "confidential" letters to all broadcasters telling them whether they have to move and, if so, what their new channel assignments are. The idea is to give broadcasters a head start on planning for their channel moves.
But, again, the broadcasters will be bound not to divulge that information before the public notice is issued.
A wild card is an effort by broadcasters to persuade the FCCto drop or relax its gag order prior to the public notice. If the FCC does, winners may be able to reveal themselves before the public notice comes out. - Harry A. Jessell
TVNewsCheck, January 25, 2017 6:03 AM EST
It seems to me, unlike in the previous channel re-assignments a decade ago to ATSC 1.0, broadcasters will be assigned their new channel by the FCC rather than having a list to choose from through a lottery system.