It’s not just high school seniors who should be waiting by the mailbox for a thick package to arrive this coming week. All television stations that filed a Form 177 application in Auction 1001 should be looking for their Second Confidential Status Letter between today and March 22nd. The FCC has released a Public Notice stating that the letters have now been mailed to auction applicants.
THE SECOND CONFIDENTIAL STATUS LETTER REQUIRES A SIGNATURE
The Second Confidential Status Letter was sent to the contact person for each applicant. Someone must be available to sign for the package. It does not have to be the contact person, but applicants will want to be sure someone is available at the address used in their Form 177 to sign for the package.
APPLICANTS THAT DO NOT RECEIVE THEIR LETTER BY NOON ET ON MARCH 22ND MUST CONTACT THE AUCTIONS HOTLINE BY TELEPHONE
The Second Confidential Status Letter will inform applicants as to whether their Form 177 applications have been deemed complete. Those applicants whose applications are deemed complete with respect to at least one selected station will receive the SecurID tokens for each of the applicants’ authorized bidders. To participate in the auction, the applicant will need the SecurID token, the FCC-assigned Username associated with that token, and the password associated with that licensee’s Federal Registration Number. Note that group owners that hold licenses in multiple licensees will receive a token and Username for each licensee and will have to sign in to the auction system separately for each licensee.
The Second Confidential Status Letter will also provide applicants with instructions for signing in to the auction online system and submitting their Initial Commitment by the deadline of 6:00 p.m. ET on March 29, 2016. As we have previously written, there will be a preview period beginning at 10:00 a.m. on March 24, 2016. All applicants should sign in to the system during the preview period to familiarize themselves with the system.
The FCC held a Workshop on March 11th to educate applicants about the Initial Commitment process. The presentation is available for review here. In the Initial Commitment, applicants will have the opportunity to designate their preferred relinquishment option from among the relinquishment option(s) they selected on their Form 177. Any applicant that selects the “Go Off Air” option will be accommodated, unless the FCC determines that their station is not needed. Stations that select one of the options to move to the High VHF or Low VHF band will also have the ability to select one or more “fall back” options.
It is important for applicants to understand their Initial Commitment options. Once the Initial Commitment window closes, the FCC will take several weeks to recalculate its spectrum clearing targets. The FCC will then send applicants a Final Confidential Status Letter which will advise them whether their station is needed in the auction (recall that when the FCC released the opening bids, it identified some stations that would not be needed in the auction because its analysis showed those stations will always have a channel to repack to, regardless of the elections made by other broadcasters). Stations previously deemed needed could be recategorized as not needed based on the information the FCC receives in the Initial Commitments.
In addition, any station that selects the move to High VHF or Low VHF band in the Initial Commitment window will be informed whether that selection can be accommodated. If a station making a VHF selection cannot be accommodated because of the limited number of channels available in that band, the station will be repacked in its original band and not be eligible to participate in the auction unless the station has selected a “fall back” option that can be accommodated. As noted, the “Go Off Air” option can always be accommodated unless the station is deemed not needed.
The learning curve for the Broadcast Incentive Auction is steep. Applicants should take advantage of the educational materials that the FCC has released thus far, and keep a sharp eye out for the arrival of the Second Confidential Status Letter.