The only significant legal issues that were potentially standing in the way of the broadcast incentive auction are slowly being removed. So far this week, the US Court of Appeals in Washington, DC has denied two requests for stays of the commencement of the reverse auction, scheduled to begin on March 29 with the submission of commitments to accept the FCC’s payout offers by stations interested in surrendering their channels to the FCC or moving from UHF to VHF channels. The Court denied one stay request outright, but it did note that another applicant, Latina Broadcasters, had made a showing sufficient for the Court to order some relief for that applicant. The Court ordered that the licensee be allowed to participate in the incentive auction on a provisional basis – presumably meaning that they can bid but, if their appeal of being thrown out of the auction is denied, they would not get the benefit of any payments that would otherwise have gone their way from any surrender of their license in the auction. (See our article here about previous actions in this case)
The FCC has now issued a statement that the inclusion of Latina in the auction will not delay the March 29 deadline for auction participants to make their binding commitments about auction participation. A letter to the Court, referenced in the FCC’s statement, contains a cryptic statement that “a short delay would result from Latina’s inclusion in the auction,” perhaps indicating that other aspects of the auction may be delayed somewhat, but the FCC’s notice makes clear that the March 29 deadline will hold. This is of course subject to Court action on the final unresolved request for stay of the auction – a request by Videohouse, Inc., another LPTV licensee claiming that it should have been treated as a Class A station and included in the auction. The Court actions thus far let the FCC proceed with the auction, and the Commission has gone ahead with advancing the auction process itself, sending out letters to all auction applicants including the SecureID tokens necessary for applicants to participate in the auction itself.
According to the FCC’s public notice released yesterday, the designated contact person for each applicant should today be receiving a letter from the FCC, forwarding the SecureID token, and notifying the applicant that they are qualified to participate in the auction. The letter is also supposed to provide additional information and instructions for the applicant on the initial commitment and subsequent processes. Obviously, if stations that intended to participate in the auction have not received these packets, they should be contacting the FCC to find out what happened.
So the auction appears to be marching on. Watch for more developments as they occur.