Fox, Others Meet With Wheeler About Auction - Multichannel

Fox, Others Meet With Wheeler About Auction

Ion, Tribune, Univision, Fox Execs Discuss Their Options
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FCC chairman Tom Wheeler met Feb. 4 with representatives of four major broadcast groups--Fox, ION, Univision and Tribune--interested in giving up spectrum under the right incentive, as it were, while staying in the business.

That is according to an ex parte notice of the meeting filed with the FCC late Friday.

They are among the first major groups to officially declare their interest--they were not required to identify themselves in the ex parte, but did.

In separate meetings with the chairman and top commissioner staffers, Jack Abernethy, CEO of Fox Television Stations., Brandon Burgess chairman and CEO of Ion Media Networks, John Eck, executive vice president of technology, operation and engineering for Univision Communications, and Edward Lazarus, executive vice president and general counsel of Tribune, made it clear they were interested in offering up spectrum at the right price and under the right conditions. But they also made it clear they were planning to stay in the business, which would mean either sharing spectrum--the more likely option that provides the biggest payout--or moving from UHF to VHF channels.

Abernethy and Burgess are members of the National Association of Broadcasters TV board so the meeting also puts an exclamation point on NAB's pivot from an early, aggressive focus on stations not putting spectrum into the auction, to ensuring the auction is fair to both those who are not participating and those who may want to give up some spectrum and stay in the business by channel sharing, a pivot in part thanks to some encouragement from the above-referenced groups, according to broadcast sources.

The execs told Wheeler that "they are working with other broadcasters to bring about constructive industry engagement on these matters and on auction issues more generally."

A source said that Wheeler and NAB President Gordon Smith have also recently spoken about the auction and it was a "productive conversation."

Read more at B&Chere.