With little fanfare, the FCC today released a Public Notice changing the deadline for television stations to file Form 177 to participate in the spectrum auction. The original filing window had run from December 1 to December 18. The newly-announced window will run from 12:00 noon Eastern Time on December 8, 2015 to 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time on January 12, 2016. This change not only extends the time for filing Form 177, but has the incidental (and probably more important) effect of extending the time for negotiating and executing pre-auction channel sharing agreements between stations.
The reason for the change is that the FCC previously indicated broadcasters would have a minimum of sixty days after release of the final opening bids to file their Form 177. Today’s Public Notice announced that the FCC has recalculated coverage areas and other repacking data for a small number of stations, resulting in a change to those stations’ opening bids. With the release of those new opening bids, the FCC felt obligated to extend the Form 177 filing deadline to ensure all broadcasters have sixty days to evaluate whether to participate in the auction in light of the recalculated opening bids.
In today’s Public Notice, the FCC indicated it did not expect this extension to delay the auction’s scheduled start date of “March 29, 2015” — but, barring any developments in time travel, we’ll presume they meant to say 2016. For broadcasters frantically negotiating channel sharing agreements, the delay will be a welcome one.