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After the Auction, TV Station Exits Grow

It turns out that 25 TV stations have fully turned in their licenses as a result of the FCC’s broadcast incentive auction, with possibly more to come. That is more than twice as many as initially signaled plans to exit the business, though some are finding creative ways to stay in regardless.

That 25-station figure (an initial B&C online report of 26 station exits included an FCC double count) includes the 12 that said from the outset they were giving up spectrum and not staying on the air through a channel-sharing partner.

Those 12 had until Oct. 25 to turn in their licenses and all did so, according to the FCC.

The other 13, mostly low-power TVs (see box), are from the 133 other stations that gave up spectrum, said they were going to share, but for some reason decided not to. The FCC asked for a head count on potential shares, but did not hold them to it since the FCC would be getting the spectrum back regardless. In the case of sharing, the license simply attached, along with must-carry rights, to the spectrum being shared.

The remaining 120 stations have until Jan. 23 to start sharing or go off the air, although they could get extensions of that date up to six months (through next July 22). The FCC says 41 stations have already sought an extension of that January exit deadline.

It is not clear how many of those 120 might also turn in their licenses before then, though 50 have already filed channel-sharing applications, signaling at least that many will likely be sharing.

There were 175 stations that recieved payouts — more than $10 billion — for various moving and exiting options in the auction. Thirty of those were paid to move from a UHF to a VHF channel or from a high to a low V, which left 145 that opted to give up their licenses.

Some, though, have figured out ways to stay involved. Gray’s WAGT in Augusta, Ga., gave up the license but is moving programming and call sign to a co-owned low power channel. Elsewhere, KSPR, in Springfield, Mo., is keeping the station website up as a news site with new stories and online ads.

An FCC spokesperson said some stations giving up licenses had indicated their programming might move somewhere else, including to online-only “virtual stations.”

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.