Wheeler: Station Auction Figure Would Be Aggregate of Nothing

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler signaled Thursday he was unlikely to authorize the release of an aggregate total for the stations that could participate in the upcoming incentive auction.

Stations don't have to decide whether or not to participate until March 29, but once the application window closed last month, the stations that applied are the only ones who can participate, so that number would at least set the upper limit of participation.

At least a couple of commissioners, one from each party, have signaled they would be okay with releasing an aggregate total, and there is no statutory prohibition.

“I think we should be transparent about what is taking place and release aggregated or anonymized data about broadcaster interest,” Jessica Rosenworceltold B&C last week. “This will give the public a better sense of auction interest and a better sense of the changes coming to this spectrum band.”

In a recent interview with C-SPAN, Republican FCC commissioner Ajit Pai said he would have no trouble with the FCC making public an aggregate number. 

But in a press conference with reporters, Wheeler, when asked about whether he would support such a release, pointed out that no station had committed, and so that total would be an "aggregate of nothing" because "they are unreviewed and still have the ability to change their mind."  

He explained that he did characterize the participation as a “spectrum extravaganza," adding "there was a real show-up."

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.