Sale of dozens of noncommercial signals in FCC spectrum auction earns minimum of $1.9 billion

Print More

Updated 2:03 p.m. Monday

The FCC released results of the spectrum auction Thursday. Here are the results for noncommercial broadcasters, according to Current’s review of the commission’s data.

So far, it appears that a minimum of $1.9 billion in deals were made with the 34 stations we’ve identified as belonging to noncommercial educational licensees. By way of comparison, the entire public media system, including stations and national organizations, brought in an estimated $3.55 billion in fiscal year 2015, according to CPB.

An additional $103 million in two deals are not accounted for — the proceeds for WYCC in Chicago and KMTP in San Francisco. While all of that money could go to the licensees, they could be entering into channel-sharing agreements and sharing proceeds with another broadcaster.

Some dollar amounts listed are approximate; the FCC released exact figures, while stations announcing their shares of channel-sharing proceeds have been releasing rounded numbers.

When reviewing these results, note that a station’s signal going off the air does not necessarily mean that all of the broadcaster’s stations are going dark. In some cases, little disruption to viewer reception is expected. However, some are signing off altogether.

Here’s what else we learned Thursday:

  • WYBE in Philadelphia and one of the three signals operated by KQED in San Francisco will go off the air. KQED’s two other signals will largely cover the vacated area.
  • Channel-sharing agreements will bring winnings to KOCE and KLCS in Los Angeles and WLVT in Bethlehem, Pa. Several others had already been announced.
  • Several stations announced moves to VHF spectrum that will bring them earnings. Others are moving signals from vacated spectrum to share space with other stations in their networks.

Catch up on what stations have been saying so far about their deals, and read our coverage to date of the auction. We’ll be updating this information as we learn more. Please contact me if you know anything we don’t or have any comments or questions.



12:11 p.m.: South Florida PBS tells Current that it is vacating WXEL’s spectrum by sharing the channel’s airwaves with another of its stations, WPBT2.

12:34 p.m.: According to the New Jersey Public Broadcasting Authority, “WNJB and WNJN will share the broadcast spectrum previously associated only with WNJB. Similarly, WNJT and WNJS will share the broadcast spectrum previously associated only with WNJS.”

1:28 p.m.: Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network will keep its station WEDY on the air by an internal channel-sharing arrangement with its own WEDW. It had previously indicated it would sell WEDW in a deal with spectrum speculator LocusPoint, but that apparently did not pan out. In addition, CPBN had announced in February that it planned to receive $32.6 million from the auction. It instead received $18.9 million.

12:56 p.m.: KCETLink and KLCS, both in Los Angeles, will split the $130 million for KLCS’s spectrum, each bringing in $62 million after technical costs. The two had agreed to channel-share in 2014; one estimate put the deal at $32 million.

9:45 p.m.: The University of California San Diego will stop over-the-air broadcasting of UCSD-TV, a channel of locally produced educational programming. It will earn $24 million from the sale.

“The funds that UC San Diego received from its participation in the auction will be reinvested to enhance our academic programs and our community outreach,” said Mary Walshok, associate vice chancellor of public programs and dean of UC San Diego Extension, which manages UCTV. “UCSD-TV will continue full operation and delivery of its programming throughout San Diego over Cox Communications and Spectrum Cable and the vast majority of the viewers will be able to enjoy UCSD-TV’s award-winning programming both through cable and online.” Many of the station’s videos are already available on its website.

The sale will not affect any jobs or the operation of the station, according to Walshok.


2:03 p.m.: Blue Ridge PBS in Roanoke, Va., will use the $5.8 million it reaped in the auction to support local programming and capital improvements, President James Baum told Current Monday. In addition, WYBE in Philadelphia confirmed in a press release that it will cease over-the-air, cable and satellite broadcasting, but parent nonprofit Independence Media will continue operations.

Public broadcasters’ participation in the FCC spectrum auction

Station affectedCityStateLicenseeEffect on broadcast signalTotal proceedsProceeds for pubcasterDate announced
WSBNTri-CitiesTNBlue Ridge Public Television, Inc.Unknown597,793597,7934/13/17
WXELWest Palm Beach-Ft. PierceFLSouth Florida PBS, Inc.Merge into other station spectrum4,696,2994,696,2994/13/17
WMSYTri-CitiesTNBlue Ridge Public Television, Inc.Unknown5,243,1225,243,1224/13/17
WJSPColumbusGAGeorgia Public Telecommunications CommissionMove to Low-VHF7,267,1477,267,1474/13/17
WPBOCharleston-HuntingtonWVOhio State UniversityGo off-air8,822,6708,822,6702/10/17
WQEDPittsburghPAWQED MultimediaMove to Low-VHF9,853,7829,853,7822/9/17
WNGHChattanoogaTNGeorgia Public Telecommunications CommissionMove to Low-VHF11,949,96611,949,9662/8/17
WCMZFlintMICentral Michigan UniversityGo off-air14,163,50514,163,5053/30/17
WOUCColumbusOHOhio UniversityMove to Low-VHF18,412,34918,412,3493/30/17
WUSFTampa-St Petersburg-SarasotaFLUniversity of South FloridaGo off-air18,754,50318,754,5034/13/17
WEDYHartford-New HavenCTConnecticut Public Broadcasting, Inc.Merge into other station spectrum18,900,22918,900,2294/13/17
K35DG-DSan DiegoCARegents of the University of CaliforniaUnknown24,020,38324,020,3833/3/17
WITFHarrisburgPAWITF Inc.Channel-share50,109,23425,054,6172/8/17
WVIAPittstonPANortheastern Pennsylvania Educational Tel.A'ssnChannel-share51,934,66825,900,0002/17/17
WRETGreenville-SpartanburgSCSouth Carolina Educational TV CommissionMerge into other station spectrum43,162,61040,000,0004/13/17
KOCELos AngelesCAKOCE-TV FoundationChannel-share138,003,71149,000,0004/13/17
WVTABurlingtonVTVermont ETV, Inc.Go off-air56,648,95256,648,9522/17/17
WGBYSpringfield-HolyokeMAWGBH Educational FoundationMove to High-VHF57,043,93957,043,9394/13/17
WNVTWashingtonDCCommonwealth Public Broadcasting Corp.Go off-air57,154,45957,154,4594/13/17
KLCSLos AngelesCALos Angeles Unified School DistrictChannel-share (with KCET)130,510,88062,000,0004/13/17
KCETLos AngelesCAKCETLinkChannel-share (with KLCS)062,000,0004/13/17
KRCBRohnert ParkCARural California Broadcasting Corp.Move to Low-VHF71,979,80271,979,8024/13/17
WLVTPhiladelphiaPALehigh Valley Public Telecommunications Corp.Channel-share121,752,16982,000,0004/13/17
WMVTMilwaukeeWIMilwaukee Area Technical College District BoardMerge into other station spectrum84,931,31484,931,3144/13/17
WSBEProvidenceRIRhode Island PBS FoundationMove to Low-VHF94,480,61594,480,6154/13/17
KQEHSan Francisco-Oakland-San JoseCAKQED Inc.Go off-air95,459,10995,459,1092/13/17
WNVCWashingtonDCCommonwealth Public Broadcasting Corp.Go off-air124,801,961124,801,9612/27/17
WYBEPhiladelphiaPAIndependence Public Media of Philadelphia, Inc.Go off-air131,578,104131,578,1044/13/17
WNJTPhiladelphiaPANew Jersey Public Broadcasting AuthorityMerge into other station spectrum (WNJS)138,059,363138,059,3632/9/17
KVCRSan BernardinoCASan Bernardino Community College DistrictMove to Low-VHF157,113,171157,113,1714/13/17
WGBHBostonMAWGBH Educational FoundationMove to Low-VHF161,723,929161,723,9294/13/17
WNJNNew YorkNYNew Jersey Public Broadcasting AuthorityMerge into other station spectrum (WNJB)193,892,273193,892,2734/13/17
WHUTWashingtonDCHoward UniversityWithdrew from auction004/13/17
WYCCChicagoILBoard of Trustees of Community College District #508, Cook CountyUnknown15,959,9574/13/17
KMTPSan Francisco-Oakland-San JoseCAMinority Television Project Inc.Unknown87,824,258Unknown2/16/17

11 thoughts on “Sale of dozens of noncommercial signals in FCC spectrum auction earns minimum of $1.9 billion

    • Because WGBH still has WGBX remaining in the UHF spectrum. They’ll effectively “swap” the flagship signal onto the WGBX allocation, and channel-map it so the viewers will never know the difference.

      WGBY? Eh, probably because it’s not a big revenue-earner. I’m sure going to VHF will hurt viewership in the Berkshires (ATSC does not work well in VHF, especially in hilly/mountainous terrain) but not enough to offset getting $57 million!

  1. Can anybody explain why the 5 for profit channels in the Chicago area were, per an article in the Chicago Tribune, sold for about ten times more than WYCC and 3.4% of the original FCC estimate of its market value? If not can anyone give me the name of someone at the FCC who could take my query? Don’t get me wrong. There could be a very good “dems da breaks” or even, possibly, a clown on a banana peel “Ooops!” explanation, but what with serious accounting felony by Fawn Ring at WTTW in the past and recent Chicago Public School Board President Barbara Byrd-Bennett in jail for corruption, I gotta ask.

    • Current is a publication/web site for PUBLIC broadcasting, not commercial broadcasting. Go to one of the other broadcasting trade boards and provoke, gadfly. BTW, the Chicago Board of Education has been out of the broadcasting business for 26 years. What does that have to do with the FCC auction?

      • I have reasonable and very important questions to ask of ALL parties involved in the auction process. If auction prices were fixed by illegal collusion within or between any of those involved, the PUBLIC has a right to know. And maybe nothing illegal happend at all as I have been careful to stipulate.

        BTW you obviously know very little about Chicago, education, privatization, corruption, or mayor 1%. Rahm names all of the trustees to CPS & Chicago City Colleges, the latter the owner of WYCC. It might be the forcibly-exited Chancellor Cheryl Hyman was just prone to slipping on $140 million bananna peels. Where’s a good investigative reporter when we need one? Do you still need me to spell things out for you Mr. Jeffries?

        The horrendous, dire straits local news is in due to the internet’s disruption of the for-profit daily newspaper model is none of your pompous, public forum-averse concern. To you the holy, historically newsless, public tv church can do no wrong. I wish more secondary stations had cashed in their frequency chips and I hope those that did fork over all the auction dough to nonprofit journalists and other, more bottom-up community media such as community tv and low power and other community radio.

        As for your redirection of me to a commercial broadcaster comment board, you really stepped in it. I’m the only local organizer directly linked by the FCC to penalty actions against a large public tv station regarding commercialism. Now go wipe your shoe off somewhere else Mr. Jeffries.

  2. I first started in “Educational Broadcasting ” as a student in 1956 at the University of Detroit where we produced programs for WTVS 56 Detroit. I graduated from Syracuse’s MS in broadcasting in 1961. After the USMC I went to Central Michigan University in 1963 and retired from there after 32 years as Director of PB in 1995. During that time we built the largest University owned R&TV network in the nation. There is an interesting story about the sale of WCMZ in Flint,MI for 14 million. Around 1990 our TV network had nowhere to expand except south from our studios in Mt.Pleasant, MI. We wanted to activate the frequency in Flint but knew that UofM was interested in the channel. So, we sent a letter to UofM asking if they were going to activate and they said yes. We waited for 6 months and they didn’t move so our University President gave them another 6 months and if they didn’t move on it we would apply. Subsequently, UofM activated the allocation and the station went on the air as WFUM. Since for a number of reasons WFUM was not a success so Central Michigan University bought the station from UofM for a reported one million dollars. WFUM became WCMV and a part of the CMU network. The buying and selling of WCMV happened after I had left in 1995. I hope that the thirteen million “made” by CMU will be used in part to cover the “rent” the CMU Network pays to CMU for their studios.

  3. “In early April 2017 KRTN-LD switched its display channel from 33 to 39 in Albuquerque NM.” From their wiki page.
    I assume this has something to do with this auction? I used to get BUZZR on 33-2 now apparently it all moved to 39 and I no longer get it.
    Used to have 66 channels from my antenna, since this auction I only have 35 channels. Not very happy they are messing with my free tv.

  4. Pingback: House committee authorizes additional funding for repack, including radio costs | Repack Ready

  5. Pingback: PBS push to preserve translator services awaits FCC decisions - Good NonProfit

  6. Pingback: FCC draft plan for repack aid turns down PBS request, favors assistance to TV stations – Broadcasting Alliance

  7. A billion here a billion there. I’m looking at my friendly substantial antenna set up – and sorry to say our love affair is definitely cooling. Since re-pack / re furbish / re- whatever – left me with 66 available versions of interferance. If it were a problem with just one or a few stations -I would consider going to an even larger/stronger antenna amplifier set up . But – I’m happy for those who are reaping the billions – tv is over rated anyway. Going to read a book – at least until my glasses get re packed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *