December 3, 2015 - 12:45 pm
By Gary Epstein | Chair, Incentive Auction Task Force
Howard Symons | Vice-Chair, Incentive Auction Task Force

Just before Labor Day we previewed the key auction milestones slated to occur this fall. The Task Force has already covered much of the ground on that list – and then some: we released the Application Procedures Public Notice; unveiled the baseline and opening bid prices for broadcast stations; and announced the bidding units, upfront payments, and minimum opening bids for forward auction bidding in each PEA. We also released guidance regarding the prohibited communications rules and clarified our policy regarding the disbursement of reverse auction incentive payments to third parties.

Next week, the window for electronic filing of reverse auction applications opens. In anticipation of that important milestone, we’ve already kicked off a new round of reverse auction bidder education and training opportunities that will continue until the reverse auction begins next year.

Our educational efforts began with the posting of an online interactive tutorial that walks broadcasters through the pre-auction process, summarizes the technical and legal details of the reverse auction, provides an interactive demonstration of the reverse auction application (Form 177), and more. Broadcasters can learn about the application process at their own pace and from any computer. The Task Force will add to the tutorial in early 2016 to walk prospective broadcast bidders through the bidding system and post-auction procedures.

Next week, on December 8th, we will be offering a workshop about the application process for broadcasters. Interested parties will be able to attend in person or view the event online. It will cover the pre-auction process and provide guidance on how to complete and submit the application, including an overview of ownership requirements, channel sharing agreements, the “red light rule,” and the relinquishment options. Participants will have the opportunity to ask questions of FCC staff following the presentation, and staff contacts are listed in the forms and materials for any follow-up questions.

When the application window opens, the Form 177 will go live. We’ve already released the instructions for the form, with which interested broadcasters can begin to familiarize themselves even before we post the application. The instructions include technical and program support phone numbers for potential reverse auction bidders.

Finally, next month we will release the file formats for the reverse auction round results data. The file formats will be of interest to broadcasters that may wish to download the results of each round for each of their participating stations, but all bidders will be able to view their own round results information on the FCC’s online auction portal during the auction.

We also have some news for forward auction participants. In November we released data file specifications for the impairment data files that will be made available for download to forward auction bidders. Next, we will be releasing the file formats for forward auction round results downloads before the end of the year. We plan to make available Form 175 instructions in early January, as well as an interactive tutorial for the forward auction application process.

We’ll have more to announce in the coming weeks as we move through the applications process and get closer to broadcasters’ initial commitments on March 29, 2016. Until then, stay tuned.

Updated: 
December 9, 2015