WASHINGTON — All those TV-station employees wondering whether they dodged a bullet in the 2017 broadcast incentive auction can now search for that information, which shows that there were 858 stations willing to give up spectrum, or a little less than half of the 1,800 stations the Federal Communications Commission was interested in getting bids from. Those 858 bids totaled a whopping $187,391,861,235.
The FCC announced the broadcasters who successfully bid to go off the air or share channels in the auction soon after it closed, but placed a two-year hold on publicizing which broadcasters got outbid.
That two-year moratorium expired Monday (April 22), and the information, plus more data on the reverse auction, has now been made public, with thousands of bids now available for perusal.
The FCC had already revealed that a total of 175 TV stations got payouts for giving up spectrum in the broadcast incentive auction, and 50 wireless bidders — including Comcast/NBCUniversal and Dish Network — got that spectrum, with the largest single TV-station payout at $304 million. The largest payout for a noncommercial station was $194 million.
There were 2,200 stations that could have participated — commercial and noncommercial full-powers, plus low-power Class A stations — but that number was reduced to 1,800 because there were stations that the FCC knew going in they didn't need, for instance in smaller markets where they could get the spectrum out of what was laying fallow.
The legislation creating the broadcast incentive auction had not required the FCC to keep the losing bidders identities secret beyond the end of the reallocation of the spectrum in the forward auction involving wireless bidders on that reclaimed spectrum, but broadcasters had sought a moratorium on unsuccessful bids, ideally in perpetuity.
They had pointed out that "if an unsuccessful bidder’s participation were made public, it could be construed by competitors, investors, advertisers, employees, viewers, and others as a statement by the licensee that it is no longer committed to investing in the station’s programming and operations going forward."
The FCC staked out a middle ground in its final rules for the auction.
"Delaying the release of confidential information regarding unsuccessful bids until two years after the effective date will permit sufficient time to pass to ameliorate the potential competitive harms identified by commenters," it said at the time.