Spectrum Auction Group EOBC Disbanding

The Expanding Opportunities for Broadcasters Coalition is disbanding as of Sept. 30, citing anti-collusion rules and procedures mostly in place.

EOBC, which has 87 member stations and has been headed by executive director Preston Padden, cited various successes already achieved, as well as FCC anti-collusion rules, which prevent stations from working together on auction strategies.

EOBC got a legal opinion related to the anti-collusion rules that recommended that it dissolve between the auction procedures public notice, which was approved Aug. 6, and the start of the anti-collusion rules, which kick in later in the fall, said Padden, who will continue to do part-time consulting, including on the auction.

The anti-collusion rules will be in effect from when broadcasters can register for the auction, likely sometime in November, until the auction ends.

Padden said that that legal advice had included that the coalition could stay in business under very strict and monitored rules, but said the recommendation was that the safer course was to disband.

There remain some unresolved issues around channel sharing and repacking stations, but Padden pointed out those were mostly post-auction issues, and the group was founded to advocate for the right forward and incentive auction rules.

While the National Association of Broadcasters represents stations who did not want to participate in the auction, as well as those who did or were considering it, EOBC was formed specifically to advocate for broadcasters willing to put spectrum in the auction at the right price and with the right rules.

"Based on sophisticated auction modeling, EOBC is highly confident that the FCC is poised to clear 126 MHz of broadcast spectrum and to pay many tens of Billions of Dollars to hundreds of broadcasters, including those who will continue to serve their communities through channel sharing," Padden said.

Among the sucesses cited by Padden:

"Persuading the FCC to issue advance price guidance to broadcasters – guidance that increased broadcaster interest in the auction; (http://www.broadcastingcable.com/news/washington/sources-fcc-dropping-dr...).

"Persuading the FCC to liberalize the channel sharing Rules [The FCC agreed to allow post-auction sharing deals]."

"Working with NAB and others to persuade the FCC to not implement Dynamic Reserve Pricing; and

"Persuading the FCC to include a Station’s interference profile in the starting price formula (although we failed to convince the FCC to use a 100% interference formula)."

Padden and his members had some thank you's as the group wound down. They included FCC Chairman Tom wheeler for a "remarkably open and transparent proceeding," members of Congress who passed the auction statute in the first place, FCC staffers including Incentive Auction Task force co-chairs Gary Epstein and Howard Symons, NAB for its "constructive help," Colorado Law Dean Phil Weiser "for his early intellectual leadership on the auction," and Blair Levin, who helped come up with the National Broadband Plan that proposed the auction.

Padden pointed out that at key stages of the proceeding, the FCC invited stakeholders in and told them what was in the draft decision, and asked for suggestions, which he called more transparent and open than the FCC has been in 40 years.

Padden personally thanked the founding members of EOBC and "former NAB executives Eddie Fritts, Jim May and Jeff Baumann who, in 1996, quietly secured Communications Act amendments that assured that broadcasters surrendering spectrum would be compensated."

He told reporters in a conference call that he saw no chance that the coalition would reform.

Padden said he thought Sprint's decision to not participate in the broadcast incentive auction would have "zero" effect on the outcome, including broadcasters participating.

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.