South Florida PBS (WPBT2 and WXEL) announces the sale of part of its broadcast spectrum (6 Megahertz/MHz) to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in a one-time transaction. South Florida PBS will receive approximately $4.7 million from the spectrum auction. The proceeds will be used to strengthen South Florida PBS’s education mission and excellence in public broadcasting programming and pay, in part, the station’s debt incurred as a result of the merger of South Florida’s two leading public broadcasting stations, which created South Florida PBS, Florida’s largest public media serving the seventh largest market in the United States.
“The proceeds from the spectrum auction will help ensure the preservation and long-term financial health of South Florida PBS,” said South Florida PBS CEO Dolores Sukhdeo. “While the revenue provided needed financial assistance, the continued support of members, donors, underwriters and state and federal funding will be absolutely critical to both stations, WPBT2 and WXEL’s ongoing operations—just as it always has been—especially at a time when we are striving to bring more local and cultural content to viewers where they are watching—across screens and devices.”
At a time when consumer demand for wireless services is growing, the broadcast spectrum will help the country address its growing need for additional mobile services, which are currently being hampered by the nation’s spectrum shortage. Earlier this year, the FCC announced that it would be purchasing broadcast spectrum from broadcasters through a voluntary reverse auction, and then, selling the purchased spectrum to wireless providers.
“We believe strongly that universal, free over-the-air access to public television is part of our mandate from the government and the American people,” said Sukhdeo. “South Florida PBS remains committed to its education mission and excellence in public broadcasting programming for communities, reaching from Key West in the south to the Sebastian Inlet in the north, and from the Atlantic Ocean west to Lake Okeechobee. We estimate that less than 1 % of our viewership will be affected by the spectrum auction and we are actively working with them and all relevant partner organizations to ensure that any local solution includes continued access. Currently, there are many variables in the auction that remain unclear. However, preserving universal service remains our central goal, and we will provide up-to-date information as details solidify.”
What is spectrum?
Spectrum is the range of frequencies used to transmit sound, data and video, TVs, radios, cellphones, computers, garage door openers, medical equipment and wireless microphones, among other devices — all use spectrum.
What is a spectrum auction?
FCC held an auction to free up spectrum to satisfy the growing demand for wireless services. Licensees of public TV stations were offered an opportunity to auction off their spectrum to the FCC who in turn sold it to wireless providers.
How was South Florida PBS able to participate in the FCC’s spectrum auction without losing viewers?
When WPBT2 combined resources with WXEL to create South Florida PBS, there was an overlap in signal reach. South Florida PBS’ bid was accepted, which means we will continue to provide our broadcast services, although our broadcast service area may slightly change. Both stations, WPBT2 and WXEL will continue to broadcast on separate channels. The auction was for capacity and not station license.
We estimate that less than 1 % of our viewership will be affected by the spectrum auction and we will be actively working with them and relevant partner organizations to secure continued coverage. We have a plan in place that will address those populations affected and will work swiftly to offer programs that enable continued access.
Will South Florida PBS still need funds from its viewers?
Yes. Public television has always operated with limited resources, and no single payment could indefinitely sustain any public broadcasting station. The proceeds will be used to strengthen South Florida PBS’s education mission and excellence in public broadcasting programming and while the revenue provides much needed financial assistance, the continued support of members, donors, underwriters and state and federal funding remains critical to our ongoing operations.
What other changes should viewers expect as a result of the sale?
Over the course of the next few months, we will remain in close contact with our viewers regarding any changes in coverage or to our channel lineup through mediums including our website, direct mail, email, social media, newsletters, the program guide, e-newsletters, ticker/chyron, community outreach, at local malls/information tables, ads in local community media, work with local leaders, organizations and other community resources. We believe strongly that universal, free over-the-air access to public television is part of our mandate from the government and the American people. We will work with all relevant partner organizations to try to address any unserved areas created by the spectrum auction as well as work to ensure that any local solution includes continued access.
Currently, there are many variables in the auction and repacking that are still in flux. That is why we will continue to update as changes become clear in our ongoing dialogue with our constituents. Providing universal service remains our central goal, and we will provide up to date information as details solidify. Mediums to notify viewers could include:
http://www.southfloridapbs.org under Community News
At the local malls/information tables
Ads in local community media
Work with local leaders, organizations and other community resources (e.g. Libraries)
When can we expect these changes to start happening?
In the next 8-12 months.