Three more university licensees vote to consider options in spectrum auction

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The boards governing three university-licensed public TV stations are mulling offering spectrum in next year’s FCC auction.

Directors of WKAR in East Lansing, Mich., licensed to Michigan State University, approved exploring auction options at a meeting Friday. Trustees at another Michigan school, Delta College in University Center, appointed a three-person committee Dec. 8 to look into auctioning WDCQ’s spectrum. And the board of Central Texas College, which operates KNCT in Killeen, voted Dec. 10 to consider participation, according to the Killeen Daily Herald.

Michigan State will conduct two public forums Jan. 4 and 11 on campus to “allow WKAR members, supporters, viewers and community members to offer their feedback to university leaders as they consider a decision,” Prabu David, dean of the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, said in a statement Monday. Comments may also be emailed to spectrum@wkar.org.

“WKAR has been working with the board and with President [Lou Anna] Simon to evaluate this opportunity and explore various options to determine whether participating in the auction is in the university’s best interest,” the statement said. “All decisions related to the auction will be made with due consideration of the university’s core mission and strategic priorities, as well as alternatives for creating and delivering content, supporting learning for students and continuing to provide PBS programming.”

The FCC’s opening auction bid for WKAR’s spectrum is $207 million. After the bids were released in October, experts cautioned that auction participants probably stand to receive far less than the opening bids.

Jean Goodnow, president of Delta College, told the local Bay City Times that WDCQ “has been part of who Delta College is, and part of our community focus for a long time. The board, as do I, feel very strongly about the services it provides and that’s why we’re keeping all our options open to stay on the air. However, the board also has a fiduciary responsibility to the citizens of the region, so that’s why they directed us to explore that option as well.”

WDCQ’s opening bid is $166 million. The FCC’s opening bid for KNCT is $246 million.

Television broadcasters nationwide must decide by Jan. 12 whether to participate in the auction. Stations have several options: They can relinquish their spectrum or channel share with another station. Stations with UHF signals can transition to VHF, and high-VHF stations can opt for a lower VHF signal. Stations may also opt not to participate in the auction, due to begin March 29.

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  • Terry Harvey

    Improvements in broadcast emission encoder efficiency now means that more program streams can be squeezed into a single terrestrial channel. We have demonstrated it is now possible to fit two HD and four SD streams into a single channel. Furthermore, the PSIP data which provides the terrestrial channel navigation information can be configured in an appropriate way for station’s to retain their channel identity. The channel share process therefore could ultimately be made imperceptive to the home viewer.
    It would seem relinquishing spectrum with the aim to channel share is a viable option.