Board to decide on WBGU-TV spectrum auction plan Friday

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The future of Ohio’s WBGU-TV could be decided Friday, when the Bowling Green State University Board is scheduled to vote on the station’s participation in upcoming spectrum auctions.

If WBGU sells its spectrum, the nearby city of Lima and its surrounding counties would no longer receive a public TV signal.

The station received permission in June from the board to explore participation in the auction, which will free broadcast spectrum for use by mobile devices. University officials estimate that selling all of WBGU’s spectrum and getting out of the broadcast business could generate around $40 million. Other possibilities include selling part of the spectrum and sharing a channel with another station, transitioning from UHF to VHF, or not participating at all.

After the June board meeting, the university sponsored four forums to hear from the public about the future of WBGU-TV, which has been broadcasting to northeastern Ohio for 51 years.

Greg Phipps, president of WBGU’s Public Advisory Council for Television (PACT), told Current that the meetings generated “an amazing outpouring of support and passionate testimonials in support of the station and its PBS and local programming.” He said the first forum brought in around 100 participants, which grew to about 250 by the final meeting.

In a proposal to university President Mary Ellen Mazey, the council recommended that the school participate in the auction only by shifting WBGU to VHF. If the board approves a sale, the university should consider other technologies that could extend the service for viewers who may lose the broadcast signal. In either case, two-thirds of the resulting proceeds should be used as an endowment to provide long-term funding for the TV station’s operation, and the university should deliver annual accountability reports on its use of auction funds.

The board vote is scheduled for 9:45 a.m. Eastern time.