FCC Sells 258 Stations in First FM Auction

The Federal Communications Commission last week auctioned licenses for 258 FM stations in the first-ever auction of open FM spectrum.

In bidding that spanned 20 days and 62 rounds, 110 buyers agreed to pay a total of $147.4 million for construction permits to build the stations, many of which are located in small and rural markets.

The FCC plans to hold similar auctions annually. In 1997, Congress ordered the FCC to issue TV and radio licenses through bidding rather than doling them out to applicants the commission deemed most qualified, as it had previously done.

The highest price was the $7.13 million pledged by College Creek Broadcasting for rights to build a station in Mesquite, Nev., a town on Arizona's northwestern border.

Many of the buyers were new entrants to broadcasting, but some of the biggest conglomerates also bought properties. Among them were Clear Channel, which paid $4.7 million for three licenses in Iowa and Washington, and Cumulus, which paid $8.57 million for seven licenses, each in a different state.