Changes in baseline coverage data for several stations leads to scheduling changes for all.
If you’re a TV licensee planning to participate in the upcoming reverse auction component of the Broadcast Incentive Auction, it’s time to get your calendar out … again. The FCC has announced changes to the all-important deadline for filing your Form 177, which will be your ticket to a seat in the auction.
As we reported last month, the initial window for filing Form 177 was set to be open from December 1 through 6:00 p.m. (ET) on December 18. No longer. According to a public notice issued by the Incentive Auction Task Force, the window has been moved and extended. So mark your calendars: Form 177 must be filed sometime between 12 Noon (ET), December 8, 2015 and 6:00 p.m. (ET), January 12, 2016.
The reason for the change? After the release of its initial calculations of the coverage areas and populations of all stations eligible for protection in the auction, the Task Force determined that some tweaking of those calculations was called for. Not much tweaking, to be sure: the numbers for a total of six stations changed, and one former Class A station downgraded to LPTV status. Still, jiggering with the coverage numbers causes changes to the opening bids for each of the affected stations. Since the Commission wants all potential reverse auction participants to have at least 60 days between (a) knowing their respective opening bids and (b) the closing of the Form 177 window, and since the new figures were released on November 12, the window is now being left open until January 12. The originally-announced March 29, 2016 start date for the auction remains unchanged.
So if you were making your end-of-year vacation plans on the assumption that your Form 177 would already be filed before the parties started, think again. While you can still get it filed before Christmas, Hannukah and/or Kwanzaa, you won’t have to commit yourself for good until well after New Year’s Day. That being the case, you may want to hold off on any seasonal celebrations until, say, Martin Luther King Day.
Note that, according to the public notice, you can mark these new window dates with an indelible Sharpie, since they won’t be changing again. While the Commission may still alter the values in its baseline data (including areas and pops calculations) up until the commencement of the auction itself, such changes will not necessarily involve changes in opening bids. Here, however, the Task Force figured that tweaking the opening bid prices and giving all potential participants a full 60 days to contemplate the adjusted prices would be conducive to maximizing participation without delaying the auction. But it expressly advises that it does “not anticipate recalculating prices again in the event that additional revisions to the baseline data are necessary.”