During a question-and-answer session Wednesday at the 2016 National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Show in Las Vegas, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler confirmed that, by the end of this month, the FCC will publish the initial incentive auction spectrum clearing targets and band plan that will set the stage for the launch of the reverse bidding clock phase next month and the start of the forward auction this summer.
Without going into specifics, Wheeler told NAB Executive Committee member Marci Burdick during an interview that the upcoming release of the incentive auction spectrum optimization plan “will give a real idea as to the size and scope of how many [broadcast industry bidders] have shown up . . . and the clearing targets.” As he reiterated FCC plans to commence the reverse bidding phase in May, Wheeler stated: “I would bet that in June, we’ll have an idea of what the dollar . . . target is for us to then start the path with the forward auction.” Although he offered no details on the amount of surrendered broadcast spectrum to be sold during the forward auction, Wheeler promised that, “very shortly,” prospective forward auction bidders will “see that there is a significant chunk of spectrum that is now available to them.” Wheeler also highlighted the post-auction challenges the FCC will face in facilitating the repack of broadcast television channels and the relocation of broadcasters who opt to keep their licenses, promising that if the $1.75 billion TV Broadcaster Relocation Fund proves to be inadequate, “I’ll be happy to lead the parade to say that has to be changed.”
Meanwhile, to the plaudits of his audience, Wheeler affirmed that the FCC will issue a request for comments next week on the recent NAB-led petition for the launch of FCC proceedings on proposed rules to govern the next-generation television transmission standard known as ATSC 3.0. Wheeler further noted that a long-awaited item on media ownership is likely to be circulated among the FCC’s commissioners in June but declined to elaborate on what that item might contain.