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Broadcasters Face Big Week in D.C.

This week at the FCC is looking to be a big, even historic, one for broadcasters as the reverse auction winds down and the commission’s review of ownership rules winds up.

If all goes as planned, the FCC on the morning of June 29 will close the reverse auction after round 52 (or that afternoon after round 54, if needed)—and, almost immediately, will announce the cost of hitting its 126 MHz spectrum-clearing target.

The higher that cost is, the harder it will be for the FCC to cover it with forward auction proceeds, but the FCC probably won’t know that for months.

If the forward auction does not raise enough, the FCC moves to round two of the reverse auction, lowering the clearing target, meaning some of the stations with payouts would lose out.

If the forward covers the cost, the auction closes and the FCC turns to step two, the television station repack.

The forward auction cannot begin until at least July 1, when the forward auction upfront payments are due. Likely the auction will start in mid-to-late July at the earliest. The FCC must still conduct a mock forward auction to allow bidders to test the system, as it let broadcasters test the reverse auction online bidding.

The other big FCC action this week is chairman Tom Wheeler’s promised circulation by the end of June of the agency’s overdue quadrennial review of media ownership rules, which incorporates 2010 and 2014 reviews. The FCC is under pressure from a federal court to come up with a definition of eligible entity so it can get on with spurring diverse ownership.

The court also remanded the FCC’s decision tightening station duopoly rules to include most joint sales agreements, which Wheeler may try to restore via the item being circulated.


Presumptive democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has signaled she will continue the Obama administration’s push for affordable broadband for all, including a new push for free WiFi in public spaces.

Clinton has also pledged to fight to overturn the Citizens United court decision, including apparently a litmus test for new judges along those lines.

Citizens United allowed for more spending on television and radio political ads by permitting corporations and unions directly fund electioneering communications in the run-up to federal elections.

Here are the communications-related campaign pledges Clinton has recently made part of the record:

1. “Hillary will appoint Supreme Court justices who value the right to vote over the right of billionaires to buy elections,” says the issues portion of her campaign site. “She’ll push for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United in order to restore the role of everyday voters in elections.”

2. “She will finish the job of connecting America’s households to the internet with a commitment that by 2020, 100% of households in America will have access to affordable broadband.”

3. “She will also invest new resources in bringing free Wi-Fi to public buildings and public transportation.”

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.