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FAQ about WKAR-TV and FCC Broadcast Incentive Auction

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Here are answers to some frequently asked questions MSU and WKAR have received about the FCC auction and WKAR-TV.

At the Dec. 18, 2015 meeting of the Michigan State University Board of Trustees, the board approved a resolution [view the pdf] to grant President Simon the authority to participate in the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Broadcast Television Incentive Auction being held Spring 2016. President Simon must decide by Jan. 12 whether MSU will submit an application to participate in the auction process, which is set to begin March 29.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1: Does the FCC Broadcast Television Incentive Auction affect WKAR Radio?

No. The incentive auction only involves TV stations. Any action taken with regard to WKAR-TV will not involve the license or operation of WKAR Radio.

Q2: Has MSU decided to sell the WKAR-TV spectrum?

No. MSU may choose to file an application to participate in the auction by the Jan. 12 deadline, but that is not the same as a decision to sell. Submitting an initial application to participate in the auction does not commit the university to sell, but it does preserve the option to do so. The decision to continue the auction process after an application is filed is voluntary.

Q3: Why are you continuing to ask for financial support for WKAR-TV, when the station may give up its license to broadcast?

A final decision has not been made with regard to participation in the auction. If WKAR-TV remains in operation, community support will continue to be essential.

Q4: I have heard that if WKAR no longer has a broadcast license, then WKAR can no longer be a PBS-affiliated station. Is this true?

Yes. A station must broadcast over the air in order to be an affiliate of the PBS network. If WKAR-TV gives up its broadcast spectrum, it no longer can be a member-supported PBS station.

Q5: Will mid-Michigan viewers continue to have access to PBS programming if WKAR is not a PBS station?

There is not a clear answer at this time. Any decision made with respect to participating in the auction will involve consideration of alternatives for continuing to provide PBS programming to the area.

Q6: I don’t watch WKAR-TV over the air via antenna. I have cable (or a satellite service). Will I be affected in any way if WKAR relinquishes its ability to broadcast?

Probably. Cable and satellite subscribers most likely will be affected if WKAR-TV leaves the airwaves. If WKAR relinquishes its spectrum and is no longer a PBS station, cable and satellite services would no longer be required to include WKAR in their channel lineup. Also, some services currently receive WKAR via the broadcast signal, which no longer would be available to them.

Q7: I watch WKAR over the air, via antenna. I do not subscribe to cable or satellite, and Internet service in my area is not sufficient for streaming video. If WKAR goes off the air, will I be able to receive PBS programming from a different over-the-air station?

No, unless another station currently broadcasting in mid-Michigan enters into an agreement with PBS to provide programming to the area. Viewers at the edge of our coverage area who currently receive other PBS stations should continue to have access to PBS programming via those other stations.

Q8: If the WKAR spectrum is sold through the FCC auction, what happens to WKAR original productions such as Off the Record, Curious Crew, BackStage Pass, Forte, QuizBusters, Current Sports and specials? Will they still be produced? Will they still be broadcast/cablecast somewhere?

There is not a clear answer at this time. Any decision made with respect to participating in the auction will involve consideration of alternatives for creating and delivering content.

Q9: Will there be additional opportunities for public input beyond the forums scheduled for Jan. 4 and Jan. 11?

Yes. Beginning on Jan. 12, the university will be subject to the FCC's anti-collusion rules, which restrict communications about the auction during the period between the application deadline and the end of the auction. But the community can continue to provide input. Look for additional opportunities for public comment to be scheduled ahead of the opening of the auction in the spring.

Q10: The FCC Reverse Auction opening bid price for WKAR-TV to fully relinquish its spectrum is listed as approximately $206 million. Could MSU get a higher price than that?

No. In the "reverse auction," the opening price is the highest price. Prices offered for the WKAR-TV spectrum usage rights are likely to fall as the reverse auction proceeds.

published 1/05/16

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