I recently posted that Congress has given the FCC permission to take back some TV channels and auction them of, but only if TV stations voluntarily give back channels. A recent story in the LA Times suggests there's not much interest from TV broadcasters in doing that. Talking to a number of station owners and building on previous public statements, there seems to be almost no interest in the FCC plan, at least among network affiliated stations. The one station owner on record (testimony at a Congressional hearing) as being willing to even consider "selling" some of its spectrum was a small independent station in a highly competitive market. A spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) provided a good summary of the industry perspective -
A former telecommunications adviser for the Obama administration outlined a possible scenario for stations to "voluntarily relinquish" spectrum in return for a share of the $1.75 billion set aside for compensation. A niche-targeted station (broadcasting in standard definition preferably) could partner with another station to shift its programming to a secondary channel (FCC rules allow stations to split their digital spectrum into as many as 4 standard definition channels, or one HD channel and one SD channel). For marginally profitable stations, the windfall from the compensation program might be enticing, particularly if they can find an alternative distribution outlet for their programming (as a secondary channel, or via cable/satellite or other multichannel distribution system).“The stations likely to sell — if any — are the ones that offer truly niche programming serving a melting pot of immigrant populations... The notion that an ABC or CBS affiliate would voluntarily choose to go out of business to help solve an alleged spectrum crunch is ludicrous.”
The problem for the FCC in trying to recover a block of 40% of the remaining spectrum allocated to television broadcasting is that there aren't a lot of those kinds of stations around. It's going to take time to find "volunteers" (unless the TV market collapses), and even then, the FCC will have to force some stations to change frequencies in order to provide the contiguous, nation-wide, blocks of spectrum needed for the envisioned service to be viable. And that's likely to be a long process, with a high likelihood of court challenges.
Source - FCC can auction spectrum, but will broadcasters sell? L.A.Times Business blog
edit track - fixed typo in title (7 March)