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Auction proceeds will be $8.8 million; WOSU-TV will continue to offer central Ohio quality PBS educational programming

Chris Davey

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio State University today announced the sale of the WPBO-TV (Portsmouth, Ohio) broadcast license following the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) landmark broadcast spectrum auction. The sale will assist the FCC in freeing up more spectrum for wireless broadband use in Southern Ohio and will generate $8.8 million for WOSU Public Media’s endowment and future capital investments. A portion of the endowment funds are expected to support student fellowships/internships at WOSU.

WPBO-TV will go off the air on a timeline to be announced by the FCC. WOSU-TV in Columbus and its viewers will not be impacted by the FCC auction beyond a mandatory move from its current channel within the next three years. Figures indicate that approximately 1,100 stations across the United States will be required to change channels whether they chose to participate in the auction or not.

In 2012, the United States Congress passed the Spectrum Act directing the FCC to initiate a voluntary incentive auction in an effort to expand the availability of high speed Internet nationwide. The FCC conducted a reverse auction from May 2016 through January 2017 allowing broadcasters to determine the value of their broadcast spectrum. The FCC imposed a quiet period for participants that was recently lifted after WPBO-TV agreed to sell its spectrum.

The Portsmouth region, located in the Charleston/Huntington, W.Va. market, is served by numerous PBS affiliates. It is estimated up to 95 percent of households in the viewing market receive service from satellite and cable providers which are expected to continue to provide quality, educational PBS programming.

“WOSU Public Media leadership will collaborate with national public media organizations, including America’s Public Television Stations (APTS) and PBS, to help ensure that viewers in the Portsmouth region retain access to public television’s content and services,” said Tom Rieland, general manager of WOSU Public Media.

WOSU-TV will remain in the Ultra High Frequency (UHF) band, allowing it to focus on the upcoming “Next Generation Television” broadcast standard called ATSC 3.0. This new standard will enable WOSU-TV to offer exciting new services, including interactive programming, mobile TV, the highest quality 4K television and an upgraded audio experience. The new services will enhance the service mission of WOSU Public Media and allow innovative new collaborations with divisions of The Ohio State University.

“We look forward to taking the lead on using this new broadcast technology,” said Rieland. “It aligns with our goal of building a state-of-the-art WOSU Public Media facility at the new 15th and High development adjacent to Ohio State’s Columbus campus.”

A new headquarters will require further planning and resource development. In 2016, Campus Partners unveiled its plans to create a vibrant connection at 15th and High which will unite the community and Ohio State.