Skip to main content

FCC Provides More Auction Channel-Sharing Flexibility

The FCC has approved its proposal to give broadcasters more flexibility in striking channel-sharing agreements (CSAs), clarifying that back-up agreements can be struck—in case the first one falls through and a station has already put its spectrum in the auction—and giving broadcasters more time to set up those arrangements after the auction.

It also clarified its carve-out from non-colluding communications rules for CSA participants.

The goal is to encourage more broadcasters to give up spectrum.

The FCC will give winning bidders with CSAs six months to cease operations on its pre-auction channel and likely grant a waiver for another three months if necessary, and even another three months if needed, so long as it does not delay the transition. Other winners will have three months, with the same additional two three-month waivers if needed.

Fox, ION, Tribune and Univision all asked for the additional time. They also had asked to be able to strike contingent agreements across multiple markets and to be able to communicate about bidding and bidding strategies, which would otherwise be prohibited communications.

The FCC said it would not grant multiple agreements across markets, saying that could "easily become a vehicle for the exchange of information that could facilitate undesirable strategic bidding behavior, intentionally or not."

But if both parties to a sharing agreement have put spectrum into the auction, either or both can strike backup CSAs with one other station in the same DMA, and also communicate with them in case both sharing parties relinquish their rights in the spectrum.

That prohibited communications exception only applies to parties to a single CSA at any given time.

The FCC had planned to vote on that item at its public meeting Thursday, but it was voted early and removed from the agenda.

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.