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WUSF TV Spectrum To Be Put Up for Auction

WUSF Television

The University of South Florida Board of Trustees voted today to put the video spectrum used by WUSF Television up for a public auction. That would mean the station could go off the air - or maybe not.

Doc Martin, Father Brown and Rick Steves could be looking for a new home a few months from now.

USF's Board of Trustees voted unanimously to join a federal auction, where the spectrum used by WUSF Television is put up for sale to the highest bidder, which will likely be a cell phone company.

The spectrum is the pathway on which a video signal is broadcast. Once the auction starts and a dollar value is set, the university has several options. It ranges from selling the entire spectrum - which means the station would go off the air - or switching to another channel, or sharing a channel with another local broadcaster, or doing nothing.

Trustee John Ramil said USF would get the biggest percentage of the auction's proceeds by completely selling its spectrum. He responded to another trustee's comments that the television spectrum may have some future value that the university doesn't yet know about.

"Let's play with numbers here," he said. "Let's say it's worth $100 million dollars. Are we willing to give up 25 or 50 percent of that to preserve some option in the future?

Sam Bell is a member of the volunteer Partners Board that advises WUSF Public Media, which oversees the TV station. He says the partners board supports joining the auction - but not the option of totally selling the video spectrum and having the station go off the air.

"I think it's extremely important for the community at large and for the university," he said, "and I think it would be a real shame if we went dark."

The auction does not impact WUSF's radio stations. Final proposals are due to the Federal Communications Commission by the end of December, with the auction beginning early next year.

You can read the trustees' presentation HERE.

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
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