FCC Gives Broadcasters Go Ahead to Resume Communications

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By Lydia Beyoud

The Federal Communications Commission today ended the “quiet period” for broadcasters involved in the agency’s ongoing spectrum auction, clearing the way for potential merger-and-acquisition talks.

The decision is primarily intended to help speed the pace at which broadcasters can prepare for their signals to be shifted onto new wavelengths to make way for wireless providers, the FCC said in a public notice. But by lifting the ban on communications, it also frees up broadcasters to explore the possibility of future mergers or acquisitions.

“Now that the final stage rule has been satisfied, communications between broadcasters regarding reverse auction bidding and results can have no effect on bidding in the reverse auction,” the commission’s notice said, because “each bid in the reverse auction constitutes an irrevocable offer by the licensee to fulfill the terms of the bid.”

The change allows broadcasters to discuss their auction bids or bidding strategies with outside parties.

“Today, we are taking an important step to facilitate a rapid and orderly repack of television broadcast stations following the close of the incentive auction,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement.

Broadcasters had been seeking the waiver to begin discussions with their vendors and other broadcasters and businesses regarding impending channel relocations. “Kudos to the FCC Staff on being responsive to broadcaster comments and waiving the Quiet Period regarding the reverse auction. This will be a huge help as broadcasters plan for the transition,” Preston Padden, a consultant who has represented TV station owners, told Bloomberg BNA via e-mail.

Confidential letters regarding channel reassignments will be issued this week to broadcasters that weren’t bought off their airwaves, the FCC said in the notice.

The FCC concluded the broadcaster side of its two-sided spectrum incentive auction on Jan. 18, but bidding for wireless licenses continues.

Qualified bidders—believed to include AT&T Inc., T-Mobile US Inc. and Comcast Corp., among others—remain subject to the FCC’s quiet-period rules. That will keep many potential M&A discussions in the technology, media and telecommunications sector on lockdown until the auction concludes.

To contact the reporter on this story: Lydia Beyoud in Washington at lbeyoud@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Keith Perine at kperine@bna.com

For More Information

Text of the public notice is at http://src.bna.com/l0M.

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