FCC's O'Rielly: Substantial Analysis Needed of Auction

Suggests still work to be done on process of moving stations

There was plenty of praise for the FCC's official conclusion of the broadcast incentive spectrum auction Thursday with a public notice full of stats relayed by FCC officials, but FCC commissioner Michael O'Rielly was focused on what happens next for broadcasters.

The FCC also announced the new channel assignments for the 957 TV stations that will be moving, though those moves will affect other TV and radio stations as well in what is planned for a 39-month, $1.75 billion repacking tantamount, say broadcasters, to a second digital transition and one that could coincide with a move to a new ATSC 3.0 transmission standard, which is incompatible with current sets.

“Releasing the Closing and Channel Reassignment Public Notice finally removes the speculative rumors about its outcome and lets everyone start planning for the future," said O'Rielly in a statement. "Moreover, it initializes the ability for the Commission and others to conduct substantial analysis regarding the auction structure and procedures." 

There has been some criticism of the auction in terms of whether that structure contributed to what many broadcasters saw as a far smaller payout than anticipated, though FCC officials say they made no predictions of auction totals and the marketplace determined the price points.

As to the repack, O'Rielly said: "The many steps that remain to actually complete the auction—including repacking the broadcasters and releasing this spectrum to forward auction winners—must be done thoughtfully and carefully.”

Broadcasters have petitioned the FCC to reconsider parts of that repack framework, arguing it does not provide sufficient flexibility and accommodation if the timetable and price tag do not square with projections.