Spectrum Auction FAQ

Why did you participate in the spectrum auction?

PBS SoCal’s board of trustees and management decided to participate in the spectrum auction following a long and thoughtful process. Our goal was to preserve the spectrum necessary to provide robust services to the 18 million people in Southern California well into the future, while earning funds we can invest in expanding our mission. We accomplished that and will carefully invest the revenues in a way that builds for the long term future of PBS SoCal.

That plan includes increasing investment in PBS and other programming, making strategic investments in content production and broadband services that reach more audiences via mobile and web, and building a strong financial foundation for PBS SoCal’s future by restructuring debt and creating an investment fund that generates annual revenues.

What is changing?

Nothing will change for viewers right now. PBS SoCal will continue to broadcast the full lineup of PBS programs and will maintain all four of our channels into the future. And we will continue to be the primary PBS station for Greater Los Angeles and Southern California.

When does the change happen?

PBS SoCal will implement its channel sharing agreement within the next six months, but nothing will change for viewers right now.

Will you broadcast from another channel?

No. We will continue to broadcast from channels 50.1, 50.2, 50.4 and 50.5.

How much spectrum did you sell?

PBS SoCal and KSCI previously had 12 MHz of spectrum collectively. We sold 6 MHz – and PBS SoCal is retaining 2/3 of what remains – or 4 MHz of UHF spectrum. We believe this is sufficient to serve the community well into the future.

How much money did you receive?

PBS SoCal earned $49M in the auction. These funds will be invested in a way that builds for the long term future of PBS SoCal.

How will the money be used?

The funds will be invested in a way that ensures PBS programs will continue in Southern California. That plan includes increasing investment in PBS and other programming, making strategic investments in content production and broadband services that reach more audiences via mobile and web, and building a strong financial foundation for PBS SoCal’s future by restructuring debt and creating an investment fund that generates annual revenues.

While the one-time revenues from the spectrum auction will help us further strengthen our organization, the ongoing financial support from the community – the individuals, foundations and corporations whose collective support comprises more than 80 percent of our annual budget – will continue to be essential to delivering noncommercial, local public services in the areas of education, public safety and civic leadership.

Does that mean PBS SoCal doesn't need my support anymore?

No, it does not – your support is essential. The one-time auction revenues will allow us to build a strong financial foundation for PBS SoCal by restructuring our debt and creating a revenue-generating investment fund that supports some of our growth-related expenses. Also, we will make careful investments in expanding our content and broadband services. But contributions from individuals, which make up 65 percent of our annual revenues, are critical to sustaining our organization.

Does PBS SoCal still need federal funding?

Yes. There is no viable replacement for federal funding – which amounts to $1.35 per citizen per year. The loss of federal funding would make it difficult for local stations to operate and would cause many of them to close, which would result in a collapse of the PBS system. Loss of federal funding would also have a devastating effect on PBS’s ability to produce the quality content our viewers love – educational kids’ programs like Daniel Tiger, Ken Burns documentaries, unbiased news from PBS NewsHour and FRONTLINE and dramas from Masterpiece would all be affected.

What is spectrum?

Radio frequency spectrum is used to transmit electromagnetic signals for a wide range of uses, including radio and television broadcasting, broadband services, microwave ovens, wireless microphones, maritime navigation, and satellite communications. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) manages this natural resource for both commercial and noncommercial use, assigning spectrum rights to specific license holders or classes of users. In 2012, Congress instructed the FCC to reorganize the radio frequency spectrum to free up bandwidth to expand high-speed wireless Internet service nationwide.

What is the spectrum incentive auction?

The FCC’s 2010 National Broadband Plan calls for freeing more spectrum for wireless broadband use by using less spectrum for broadcast television.

In most parts of the country, spectrum can be freed up by reorganizing the channels to which TV broadcasters are assigned. In some more densely populated areas, like Los Angeles, the U.S. government needed to buy some or all the spectrum from television stations that were willing to sell. The FCC will in turn sell the spectrum to wireless carriers so they can expand. This was accomplished via the spectrum incentive auction.

What does channel sharing mean?

Each station currently has the right to broadcast over a 6 MHz channel of spectrum. Since the U.S. switched to digital television in 2009, it has been possible for a station to divide its 6 MHz of bandwidth to broadcast multiple sub-channels of programs in a mix of high definition (HD), standard definition, and narrower bandwidths at the same time.

In a channel sharing agreement, two stations in the same market agree to share one 6 MHz channel, with each station giving up some broadcast capacity, by potentially reducing visual quality or the number and variety of program streams.

Because you are in a channel sharing agreement, will you still air on cable and satellite?

Yes. We expect to continue all of our multicast offerings, and our current agreements ensure the cable companies will continue to carry our channels.

Will the repacking affect my station's coverage area?

At this point we do not expect our coverage area will change. It is our priority to ensure we have the same coverage so that everyone in Southern California has access to PBS programming.

How will repacking affect television broadcast translators?

At this time, the FCC has not indicated how translators will be affected in the repack. Our goal is to continue to improve our coverage area – to ensure everyone in Southern California has access to PBS programming.