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Spectrum Auction Over: 175 TV Stations Take Money to Vacate Their Channels

Phillip Dampier April 13, 2017 Consumer News, Public Policy & Gov't 10 Comments


An unprecedented 175 free over-the-air television signals will sign off on their current channels for good in return for an average of tens of millions in compensation paid by Comcast, Dish Networks, and various wireless companies that want their frequencies to bolster their mobile networks.

The UHF dial compression comes courtesy of the latest FCC spectrum auction, which allowed bidders to entice over-the-air television stations to give up their frequencies to make room for wireless companies trying to bolster their 4G LTE networks. At least 957 stations across the country will have to move to new channels as the FCC compresses the TV dial to make room for wireless providers.

Virtually all the affected stations won’t disappear from free over-the-air TV for good, however. Of the 175 stations, 133 plan to make a deal with another local station to relaunch as a secondary digital channel, 29 will move from a UHF channel to a new VHF channel (2-13), and one channel will move from a high VHF channel to a low numbered one.

The move was very profitable to some major market stations, where the TV dial is already crowded with signals. WWTO-TV, a TBN affiliate airing Christian TV programming in LaSalle/Chicago, Ill. won the highest amount of any station in the country to put its transmitter off the air – $304 million. The biggest non-commercial auction winner was New Jersey’s Public Broadcasting Authority, which won $194 million to switch off WNJN in Montclair, N.Y.

The winners are 50 wireless bidders who want the frequencies to improve their wireless networks by increasing the amount of spectrum they can use in the coveted 600MHz band. Signals at these frequencies do a better job penetrating buildings and around natural obstacles and terrain. The result will be improved coverage and signal quality, with fewer dropped calls.

“The conclusion of the world’s first incentive auction is a major milestone in the FCC’s long history as steward of the nation’s airwaves,” said FCC chairman Ajit Pai. “Consumers are the real beneficiaries, as broadcasters invest new resources in programming and service, and additional wireless spectrum opens the way to greater competition and innovation in the mobile broadband marketplace.”

Stations can begin vacating their frequencies this year. Among the 957 stations that have to change channel numbers, the first of a series of channel changes will begin on Nov. 30, 2018. The last changes should take place just over three years from now.

Are you affected? Here is the list of channels going off the air or relocating to a different band:

Albany-Schenectady-Troy, N.Y.

  • WCDC-TV UHF Going off the air

Augusta, Ga.

  • WAGT-TV UHF Going off the air

Baltimore, Md.

  • WUTB-TV UHF Going off the air

Boston, Mass.

  • WBIN-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WDPX-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WFXZ-CD UHF Going off the air
  • WGBH-TV UHF Moving to Low VHF Channel
  • WLVI-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WMFP-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WYCN-CD UHF Going off the air
  • WYDN-TV UHF Going off the air

Buffalo, N.Y.

  • WIVB-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WNYB-TV UHF Moving to Low VHF Channel
  • WVTT-CD UHF Moving to High VHF Channel

Burlington, Vt.-Plattsburgh, N.Y.

  • WNNE-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WVTA-TV UHF Going off the air

Charleston-Huntington, W.V.

  • WPBO-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WTSF-TV UHF Moving to High VHF Channel

Charlotte, N.C.

  • WLNN-CD UHF Going off the air
  • WMYT-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WTBL-CD UHF Going off the air

Charlottesville, Va.

  • WVIR-TV UHF Moving to Low VHF Channel

Chattanooga, Tenn.

  • WNGH-TV UHF Moving to Low VHF Channel
  • WTNB-CD UHF Moving to Low VHF Channel

Chicago, Ill.

  • WOCH-CD UHF Going off the air
  • WPWR-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WSNS-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WWTO-TV High VHF Channel Going off the air
  • WXFT-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WYCC-TV UHF Going off the air

Cincinnati, Oh.

  • WOTH-CD UHF Going off the air

Cleveland-Akron, Oh.

  • WAOH-CD UHF Going off the air
  • WDLI-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WGGN-TV UHF Moving to Low VHF Channel
  • WRLM-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WUAB-TV UHF Going off the air

Columbus, Ga.

  • WJSP-TV UHF Moving to Low VHF Channel

Columbus, Oh.

  • WOUC-TV UHF Moving to Low VHF Channel
  • WSFJ-TV UHF Going off the air

Dallas-Ft. Worth, Tex.

  • KATA-CD UHF Going off the air

Dayton, Oh.

  • WBDT-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WKOI-TV UHF Going off the air

Flint-Saginaw-Bay City, Mich.

  • WCMZ-TV UHF Going off the air

Greensboro-High Point-Winston, N.C.

  • WCWG-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WLXI-TV UHF Going off the air

Greenville-New Bern-Washington, N.C.

  • WFXI-TV High VHF Channel Going off the air

Greenville-Spartanburg, S.C.

  • WGGS-TV UHF Moving to Low VHF Channel
  • WRET-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WYCW-TV UHF Going off the air

Harrisburg-Lancaster-Lebanon-York, Pa.

  • WGCB-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WLYH-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WPMT-TV UHF Going off the air

Harrisonburg, Va.

  • WAZH-CD UHF Going off the air
  • WVPY-TV UHF Going off the air

Hartford-New Haven, Conn.

  • WCTX-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WEDY-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WRDM-CD UHF Going off the air
  • WUVN-TV UHF Going off the air

Huntsville-Decatur-Florence, Ala.

  • WHDF-TV UHF Moving to Low VHF Channel

Indianapolis, Ind.

  • WCLJ-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WHMB-TV UHF Moving to High VHF Channel
  • WNDY-TV UHF Going off the air

Johnstown-Altoona, Pa.

  • WKBS-TV UHF Moving to Low VHF Channel

Knoxville, Tenn.

  • WAGV-TV UHF Going off the air

Lansing, Mich.

  • WHTV-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WLNS-TV UHF Going off the air

Lima, Oh.

  • WTLW-TV UHF Moving to Low VHF Channel

Los Angeles, Calif.

  • KAZA-TV UHF Going off the air
  • KBEH-TV UHF Going off the air
  • KDOC-TV UHF Moving to High VHF Channel
  • KILM-TV UHF Going off the air
  • KJLA-TV UHF Going off the air
  • KLCS-TV UHF Going off the air
  • KNET-CD UHF Going off the air
  • KOCE-TV UHF Going off the air
  • KRCA-TV UHF Going off the air
  • KSFV-CD UHF Going off the air
  • KVCR-TV UHF Moving to Low VHF Channel
  • KWHY-TV UHF Moving to Low VHF Channel

Louisville, Ky.

  • WBKI-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WWJS-CD UHF Going off the air

Madison, Wisc.

  • WISC-TV UHF Moving to High VHF Channel

Memphis, Tenn.

  • WWTW-TV UHF Going off the air

Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

  • WDLP-CD UHF Going off the air
  • WIMP-CD UHF Going off the air
  • WLPH-CD UHF Going off the air

Milwaukee, Wisc.

  • WCGV-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WMLW-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WMVT-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WVCY-TV UHF Going off the air

Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn.

  • KCCO-TV High VHF Channel Going off the air

Monterey-Salinas, Calif.

  • KSMS-TV UHF Going off the air

Myrtle Beach-Florence, S.C.

  • WGSI-CD High VHF Channel Going off the air

New York, N.Y.

  • WEBR-CD UHF Going off the air
  • WMBQ-CD UHF Going off the air
  • WMUN-CD UHF Going off the air
  • WNBC-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WNJN-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WNYJ-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WRNN-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WTBY-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WXTV-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WZME-TV UHF Going off the air

Orlando-Daytona Beach-Melbourne, Fla.

  • WACX-TV UHF Moving to High VHF Channel
  • WTGL-TV UHF Going off the air

Philadelphia, Pa.

  • WFMZ-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WGTW-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WLVT-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WMCN-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WNJT-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WTSD-CD UHF Going off the air
  • WTVE-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WUVP-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WWSI-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WYBE-TV UHF Going off the air

Pittsburgh, Pa.

  • WBOA-CD UHF Going off the air
  • WEMW-CD UHF Going off the air
  • WEPA-CD UHF Going off the air
  • WNNB-CD UHF Going off the air
  • WPCP-CD UHF Going off the air
  • WQED-TV High VHF Moving to Low VHF Channel
  • WQVC-CD UHF Going off the air
  • WVTX-CD UHF Going off the air

Providence, R.I.-New Bedford, Mass.

  • WLWC-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WRIW-CD UHF Going off the air
  • WSBE-TV UHF Moving to Low VHF Channel

Puerto Rico

  • WDWL-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WELU-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WIRS-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WKPV-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WMEI-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WSJU-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WTCV-TV UHF Going off the air

Raleigh-Durham, N.C.

  • WFPX-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WHFL-CD UHF Moving to High VHF Channel
  • WNCN-TV UHF Moving to High VHF Channel
  • WRAY-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WZGS-CD UHF Going off the air

Richmond-Petersburg, Va.

  • WUPV-TV UHF Moving to High VHF Channel

Roanoke-Lynchburg, Va.

  • WFFP-TV UHF Going off the air

Rockford, Ill.

  • WIFR-TV UHF Going off the air

San Diego, Calif.

  • K35DG-TV UHF Going off the air
  • KSEX-CD UHF Going off the air

San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, Calif.

  • KEMO-TV UHF Going off the air
  • KEXT-CD UHF Going off the air
  • KMPT-TV UHF Going off the air
  • KOFY-TV UHF Going off the air
  • KQEH-TV UHF Going off the air
  • KRCB-TV UHF Moving to Low VHF Channel
  • KRON-TV UHF Moving to High VHF Channel
  • KTLN-TV UHF Going off the air
  • KTNC-TV UHF Going off the air
  • KTSF-TV UHF Going off the air

Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-San Caballero, Calif.

  • KMMA-CD UHF Going off the air

Springfield, Mo.

  • KSPR-TV UHF Going off the air

Springfield-Holyoke, Mass.

  • WGBY-TV UHF Moving to High VHF Channel

Syracuse, N.Y.

  • WNYI-TV UHF Moving to High VHF Channel

Tampa-St. Petersburg-Sarasota, Fla.

  • WUSF-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WTTA-TV UHF Going off the air

Tri-Cities, Tenn.

  • WAPG-CD UHF Going off the air
  • WMSY-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WSBN-TV UHF Going off the air

Tyler-Longview, Tex.

  • KCEB-TV UHF Going off the air

Washington, D.C.

  • WAZF-CD UHF Going off the air
  • WDCA-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WDCW-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WJAL-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WMDO-CD UHF Going off the air
  • WNVC-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WNVT-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WZDC-CD UHF Going off the air

West Palm Beach-Ft. Pierce, Fla.

  • WFGC-TV UHF Moving to High VHF Channel
  • WXEL-TV UHF Going off the air

Wilkes Barre-Scranton, Pa.

  • WKBN-TV UHF Going off the air
  • WVIA-TV UHF Going off the air

Currently there are 10 comments on this Article:

  1. Matt says:

    Money trumps everything.

    • JayS says:

      Yep. The Federal Government, that did not invent, discover, or create the radio spectrum made out like a bandit; 7.3 Billion dollars.

      Technology has come a long way. At one time UHF Tv stations had to be set with an interval of 6 stations within the same Tv market 14, 20,26,32…., with 83 being the top of the dial until 1982. Now UHF can alternate channels in the same Tv market, just like VHF has done since the beginning of Tv broadcasting (1930’s/40’s). The new ATSC 3.0 standard may allow even tighter station packing. There is no good reason to have Tv squat on radio spectrum that can be put to more productive use.

  2. Kenneth Richner says:

    It was inevitable first the copper phone lines now OTA TV broadcasts will die! This has to stop! Next terrestrial radio will get shut down!! Wireless internet is not a feasible alternative to broadcast anything!!! There are still people who can’t access affordable internet like me I am forced to use a hotspot for anything beyond the few digital TV stations I can get, ATT refused to connect me and Charter ended there Cable on the property next to me (they want me to pay for a pole to gap a bridge to get there service, so when I loose OTA TV I will be forced to pay insubordinate fees to a wireless company to stream my video for news and weather, right now it cost me over $100 a month for the data and it gives at best 15-20 hours before I have to buy more data, this is on top of what I pay to the streaming services, this is insane these networks make there money off advertising to broadcast are they going to eliminate advertising when. We have to pay to watch??? This is not the american way!! No wonder other country’s hate us!!!

  3. AaronG says:

    the two guys above me are completely ignorant, the article clearly states that the stations are just MOVING and will not go off the air, also this auction was completely voluntary and the TV stations did not need to sell if they didnt want to, in all reality they won big because every single one of the was awarded their spectrum for FREE and they just got to sell it for a boat load, i would also like to note that the author is really stretching some facts here, neither dish nor comcast “won big” comcast got very little spectrum and dish got at most 10MHz acrossed the US except for like 2 or 3 places where they ended up with more than that, AT&T bought very little and verizon didnt buy squat.

    • Kenneth Richner says:

      AaronG If you would read the whole article your will see over 90% of these stations are GOING OFF THE AIR! HERE IF YOU DIDN’T SEE IT THE FIRST TIME
      There’s 10 pages of what the stations are doing after they sold did you skip past most of the article just to bash people who actually read?. “Tampa-St. Petersburg-Sarasota, Fla.

      WUSF-TV UHF Going off the air
      WTTA-TV UHF Going off the air
      Tri-Cities, Tenn.

      WAPG-CD UHF Going off the air
      WMSY-TV UHF Going off the air
      WSBN-TV UHF Going off the air
      Tyler-Longview, Tex.

      KCEB-TV UHF Going off the air
      Washington, D.C.

      WAZF-CD UHF Going off the air
      WDCA-TV UHF Going off the air
      WDCW-TV UHF Going off the air
      WJAL-TV UHF Going off the air
      WMDO-CD UHF Going off the air
      WNVC-TV UHF Going off the air
      WNVT-TV UHF Going off the air
      WZDC-CD UHF Going off the air”


      • Rob Hoffmann says:

        Keep in mind that many of the stations going “off the air” have made deals — or have duopoly partners — that will allow the stations to stay on the air as a digital subchannel.

        While it’s off-putting to see the first television license, WNBC/New York, going dark – it’s really not. WNBC will simply become WNJU-DT2 and use PSP to be seen as Channel 4 over the air even though it hasn’t been Channel 4 since the digital transition.

        And yes, over-the-air television is going to die out. Why spend all that money pumping out an OTA signal to a shrinking number of antennas? Cable and internet will be where “local” television lives eventually. This is just one step in that direction.

        • Kenneth Richner says:

          True but it kills our infastructue if there is ever a major event that takes out our satellite communications and or our land based Cable communication, eg a EMP (from N Korea) a serious solar flare, we will really be in the dark with no way to reach out to the public the whole system was built out with that in mind unless they run fiber to the door (inherently immune to this) at every home in the USA I know that will never happen you will be tied to a static location if it’s piped in those unfortunately that live in rural locations like me will be in the dark, wireless has serious limitations when it’s being used to transmit VOIP and IPTV there’s no way to have a open tunner to that can receive audio and video without a subscription or a way to decrypt the data stream, with the tension in North Korea and Russia right now anything can happen, progress is a good thing if applied correctly. As I said if NK starts a nuclear war with us things will change fast .

      • To be fair, virtually every station turning off their transmitter will turn up on another station as a digital subchannel. That means your local Channel 5 that is going off the air will reappear as Channel 10.2 (just an example). If you have seen over the air lately, you know many channels host “sub-channels” beneath the main signal. For example, our local NBC station WHEC-TV has its main program on Channel 10.1, but also hosts Me-TV on 10.2 and a loop of continuous weather forecasts on Channel 10.3. Had a signal in our area gone off the air on channel 5, it would likely reappear as something like 10.4. Viewers rescanning with a digital converter box or TV would find those channels again and they’d probably have the same “virtual channel” assigned as always, making the move invisible to many.

        There are good and bad things about this.

        Good: Cable and satellite customers won’t even notice any of this happened. Most of those services are now fiber-fed, not picked up over the air.

        It makes TV bandwidth more efficient. You can put more channels in a tighter space, freeing up dead space for other purposes. ATSC 3.0 will eventually mean even more space, if the standard is as robust as is claimed.

        Bad: In many markets, TV transmitters do not share tower space so reception quality can vary depending on the station. There is a very high chance reception quality will be negatively affected for some viewers, especially those stations relocating to low VHF frequencies or to a transmitter more distant from the one they receive now.

        Some stations may not be able to achieve reasonable agreements to share channel space and can be “held hostage” by the host broadcaster.

        Fewer primary stations mean less capacity for future sub-channels. In smaller markets, stations will have less ability to launch sub-channels if they are already hosting a lot of other signals. Stations may be tempted to reduce video quality through compression to make additional space available.

        The station repack is going to increase interference and potentially impact rural viewers who may have difficulty receiving fringe signals because of interference problems. As we’ve seen on low band VHF during periods of ‘freak reception conditions’, interference can create massive havoc for digital TV signals.

  4. Negin says:

    There are still areas where broadband doesn’t reach and some that watch little TV and don’t want to use any cable/satellite service.

    By the time the stations start shifting around, there should be a new broadcast system ATSC 3.0 in place that should handle several stations off one transmitter like today’s system, but with more room for many HD channels.

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