Virginia network gets $182M from sale of two stations in spectrum auction

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Commonwealth Public Broadcasting Corp. in Richmond, Va., will receive $182 million for the sale of two Virginia TV stations in the FCC spectrum auction, the broadcaster announced Thursday.

The stations going dark, WNVC in Fairfax and WNVT in Goldvein, are programmed by MHz Networks, a nonprofit that has been independent of Commonwealth since 2013. WNVC is selling for $124.8 million; WNVT, for $57.1 million.

WNVC and WNVT now carry programming aimed at a multicultural audience in suburban Washington, D.C., including some locally produced shows about Indian and Nepalese news and culture.

“The Northern Virginia area is served by other public media stations, including multiple PBS-member stations,” Commonwealth said in an FAQ, “and it was determined that there was no long-term strategic value for CPBC to maintain a continued over-the-air presence in Northern Virginia, especially given the opportunity to monetize the assets in order to strengthen our core mission to use the power of media to educate, entertain and inspire.”

The broadcaster will devote the proceeds to its remaining three TV and three radio stations in central Virginia, branded as the Community Idea Stations network. The broadcaster has launched a strategic planning process to establish a foundation with the proceeds.

“We will use a portion of the proceeds to focus even more on local content that tells the rich stories in history and showcases the arts in our community,” the station said in a press release. “We will build and enhance our news-gathering operations. We will broaden our community engagement to ensure maximum local impact. And, we will leverage our experience in producing award-winning radio and television content to enhance digital-first production capacity.”

Commonwealth expects to receive the money later this year. The station took in $8.8 million in revenue in fiscal year 2015, according to an audit posted on its website.

The broadcaster will hold a town hall meeting April 27 at 5:30 p.m. at its Richmond headquarters to further discuss how it will use the money.

  • I wonder if any of the international broadcasters buying time on MHz Networks will shop around and end up buying time on any other DC area stations?

    • Good question, I’m trying to find out.

    • Niklas_E

      I thought the programming is donated to MHz, and the foreign broadcasters get a platform for American viewers to see the programming. I do believe however that the Russian government pays Comcast to air RT on it’s cable system in many parts of the USA. I suspect only the main ‘MHz WorldView’ channel will remain after the northern Virginia stations go off the air, and the sub-channels will no longer be available.

      • A producer of MHz’s local shows aimed at the area’s Indian viewers told me that her company does not pay MHz to have the shows aired. She also said that she understands that MHz will continue to broadcast the WorldView channel on cable in the DC area. MHz’s president hasn’t returned my calls and emails.

        • My opinion: It seems like they have increasingly focused their efforts on their SVOD service, MHz Choice. Admittedly this is probably more profitable in the long run. If they can keep it going and keep a few affiliates on cable/satellite for their WorldView channel, that may be enough.