Milwaukee area television stations will receive $312.2 million from a Federal Communications Commission broadcast spectrum auction.
[caption id="attachment_314465" align="alignright" width="395"] MATCs downtown Milwaukee campus.[/caption]
As part of that auction, Milwaukee Area Technical College, the license holder for Milwaukee PBS channels 10 and 36, will receive $84.9 million in proceeds, the school announced Thursday. The figure represents roughly half of MATC's $169.4 million general fund budget for the current fiscal year. Milwaukee PBS, which is run from MATC's enterprise fund, had operating revenues of $13.1 million in fiscal 2016.
“This was a strategic decision for MATC, Milwaukee PBS and the diverse communities that we serve” said MATC president Vicki Martin. “We are carefully considering the best investment strategy and process to leverage this one-time infusion of funds to benefit generations to come.”
Four other Wisconsin stations, including three in the Milwaukee area, also participated in the auction. WCGV, Channel 24, received $84.3 million; WMLW, Channel 49, received $66.7 million and WVCY, Channel 30, received $76.3 million. All three stations are listed as having channel sharing agreements in the FCC's auction results, though not necessarily with each other, meaning viewers likely won't see a change.
WISC-TV in Madison, a CBS affiliate, received $48.9 million and will shift to very high frequency spectrum.
The FCC created the auction to free up bandwidth to accommodate the growing capacity needs of wireless technology. The auction generated $19.8 billion in revenue, involved 175 TV stations, 50 wireless bidders and freed up 70MHz for mobile broadband.
"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,” said FCC chairman Ajit Pai.
The MATC district board will vacate the spectrum on which channel 36 resided and instead combine transmission of both stations on its remaining very high frequency channel spectrum. The school said there would be no impact on the viewing experience for channels 10 and 36.
“Milwaukee PBS will continue to provide high-quality programming to our viewers in southeastern Wisconsin and northern Illinois. These proceeds will ensure we have the necessary technological infrastructure to meet our viewers’ needs,” said Bohdan Zachary, Milwaukee PBS general manager. “In a time of unprecedented media choices, we are grateful to our loyal viewers for continuing to choose Milwaukee PBS for objective news reporting and high-quality educational programming.”
MATC will likely receive the auction proceeds in late 2017 or early 2018. The board and college leadership are reviewing investment strategy options to maximize the impact of the funds. Strategic priorities included financial sustainability of MATC and Milwaukee PBS, addressing workforce needs along with college affordability and accessibility and maintaining quality community and educational programming on Milwaukee PBS.