New Jersey’s four public TV stations are, according to a 10/17/16 FCC
release, worth as much as $2.3 billion at the upcoming (March 2016) 600 MHz broadcast spectrum auction. These stations are currently licensed to the New Jersey Public Broadcasting Authority
, and operated by WNET, New York as the NJTV
network. Two are located in the largest television market, New York (the New Brunswick and Montclair stations) and two are in the fourth largest market, Philadelphia (the Trenton and Camden stations). Even if the stations didn’t sell their frequencies, but simply move down to low VHF channels, thereby freeing up the more valuable UHF frequencies for wireless bidders, they could take in up to $1.7 billion.
||Trenton, NJ (Philadelphia DMA)
||581,433,300 to vacate; 436,074,975 to move to VHF channel
||New Brunswick, NJ (New York DMA)
||475,608,780 to vacate; 277,438,455 to move to VHF channel
||Montclair, NJ (New York DMA)
||775,742,400 to vacate; 581,806,800 to move to VHF channel
||Camden, NJ (Philadelphia DMA)
||501,644,700 to vacate; 376,233,525 to move to VHF channel
Broadcasters have complained that the FCC undervalues
their spectrum. Wireless bidder AT&T thinks the numbers are too high. The actual price that broadcasters get will depend on how much spectrum the FCC decides it wants to clear for blanket 4G coverage, how many broadcasters in a market show up for the auction, and how many wireless bidders there are. The numbers that the FCC put out are just the starting bids which, in the reverse auction for broadcast spectrum, will go down.
The clearing price for a New Jersey station will undoubtedly be much lower than the maximum prices the FCC released. But they could still amount to quite a lot of cash. It’s time for public input into what the New Jersey Broadcasting Authority should do, how it should participate in the auction, and what should happen with the proceeds. Even if we are talking about tens of millions of dollars, not billions… even if we are talking about millions of dollars and not tens of millions… these figures could be transformative for New Jersey public media.
This is money that could be used to support digital journalism, civic engagement, arts, and innovation that public media advocates have always wanted and never had the cash to implement. Among the questions that must be answered are: Who should be eligible for these funds? How can they be administered transparently and with accountability? What happens to public media service if the broadcast footprint is reduced?