Number of TV Stations Going Dark After Auction Grows

The dozen stations who told the FCC they were shuttering their stations after they got incentive auction payouts for their spectrum, have turned in their licenses, plus more than a dozen others, according to an FCC source.

The 12 who definitely said they were going off the air after they got their multimillion-dollar auction payouts were required to do so by Oct. 25 and, according to the source, everybody did.

But an additional 14 TV stations (up from a dozen a few weeks back) have also gone off the air as of that date, according to FCC figures. Those were stations that checked the box saying they planned to share, but for some reason decided not to and turned in their licenses instead.

There were 175 stations that got payouts--over $10 billion--for various moving and exiting options in the auction, with 30 of those getting paid to move from a UHF to a VHF channel or from a high to a low V, which left 145 who opted to give up their spectrum.

Of those the 12 who said they were going off the air had to do so by that Oct 25 date. The remaining 133 said they were giving up their spectrum but were planning to stay on the air by sharing spectrum with another station in the market.

They did not have to follow through with that sharing plan, however, just give up the spectrum.

So, of those 133 sharing box-checkers, 14 have gone off the air instead, which leaves 119. Those 119 have until January 23 to either strike a sharing deal or go off the air, with the caveat that if they are having issues with those sharing agreements they can file for a waiver for a little extra time, but must do so by Nov. 24.

So far, 37 have signaled to the FCC they have such sharing deals, which leaves 82 whose fate was still unknown at press time.

If they need a waiver, the FCC has said it will give them up to 90-day extensions of that Jan. 23 off-air date, either because they have an agreement but can't finish construction by Jan. 23, or because they have a deal but are still hammering out the fine points and may not be done by then.

John Eggerton

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.