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Wheeler: Murdoch Says 21st Century Fox Is Auction Player

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler says CEO James Murdoch was in his office Monday (Sept. 8) and assured him 21st Century Fox would be participating in the broadcast incentive auction.

Wheeler was being interviewed at CTIA's Super Mobility 2015 show in Las Vegas Sept. 9.

"I told him I was going to be talking with you today," Wheeler told the CITA crowd, "and I said "can I tell them you are going to show up,' and [Murdoch] said 'yep.' Now of course it depends on some of the details we have to work out between now and then,"Wheeler added.

He told L.A. Times editorial writer Jon Healey that he has talked to most of the CEOs of major broadcast groups and he thinks they are going to show up to the auction as well.

“Fox is just one example of a 'sea change' in broadcaster intentions to participate in the auction and that change means the FCC will clear at least 126 MHz," said the Expanding Opportunities for Broadcasters Coalition in a statement. Those are stations looking to put spectrum in the auction at the right price.

Wheeler said that he expected the FCC would release a public notice with more details about auction schedules and practice sessions and other info, then by Thanksgiving he said broadcasters will have a chance to apply to participate, with wireless carriers getting the same chance at their side of the auction in early 2016.

Wheeler said the auction would begin March 29 as promised, and that it also promised a pot of money to broadcasters to innovate without losing the business model they have been so successful at. The auction allows stations to move to new channels or share with other broadcasters if they don't want to exit the business entirely.

He also said he expected there would be a lot of wireless bidders in the forward auction given the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the beachfront spectrum.

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.