FCC waives quiet period auction rules for broadcasters

TV Tower
Image: M.O. Stevens/Wikimedia Commons

With the broadcast incentive auction winding down, the FCC has waived the quiet period rules that barred broadcasters from discussing auction activity with one another.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said the waiver was “an important step to facilitate a rapid and orderly repack of television broadcast stations following the close of the incentive auction.”

“Specifically, the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau is waiving the rules prohibiting communication between parties of any incentive auction applicant’s reverse auction bids or bidding strategies. Broadcasters have asked for this waiver in order to make it easier for television stations to engage in planning and coordination for the post-auction transition. I look forward to working with broadcasters and wireless carriers going forward on further steps to ensure a smooth post-auction transition,” Pai said in a statement (PDF).

The FCC’s move earned the praise of the National Association of Broadcasters.

"With the TV spectrum auction nearing completion, it is perfectly appropriate to lift some of the so-called 'quiet rules' that barred discussions among broadcasters prior to and during the auction. NAB supports today's common sense FCC action and looks forward to completing this auction and repacking with minimal disruption to our tens of millions of viewers,” said Dennis Wharton, executive vice president of communications for the NAB, in a statement.

RELATED: Gray TV anticipating $90.8M in broadcast spectrum auction proceeds

During the broadcast incentive auctions, which allowed broadcasters to give up their 600 MHz airwaves so wireless data networks could use the spectrum, several parties warned the FCC that the quiet period could impede the speedy transition for broadcasters vacating their current channels.

In November, TV tower firm Electronics Research, Inc. (ERI) warned the FCC that the quiet period could have a “detrimental effect” on pre-planning for the channel reassignment transition.

According to ERI, broadcasters’ assessments regarding main and auxiliary RF operations, structural analysis and possible interruption of collocated radio broadcasting have brought up questions of reimbursement timing, “since most manufacturers and services companies will require down payments to begin processing orders and scheduling service resources.”

“[ERI] asked the IATF to provide more transparency with regard to the expected processing times for cost reimbursement submissions and the availability of funds, particularly at the beginning of the transition,” Meleski wrote.