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CBS affiliate WNCN is switching channels

WNCN gave up its current spectrum as part of a nationwide auction conducted by the Federal Communications Commission. As a result, it will need to switch channels. WNCN political reporter Beau Minnick is shown here working on election night 2016.
WNCN gave up its current spectrum as part of a nationwide auction conducted by the Federal Communications Commission. As a result, it will need to switch channels. WNCN political reporter Beau Minnick is shown here working on election night 2016. rwillett@newsobserver.com

The Triangle’s CBS affiliate, WNCN, is scheduled to switch channels by 2019 after agreeing to give up its current spectrum as part of a nationwide auction conducted by the Federal Communications Commission.

The switch by WNCN, which currently broadcasts on channel 17, shouldn’t affect consumers’ ability to receive WNCN, said FCC spokesman Charles Meisch.

The 2012 law passed by Congress that authorized the spectrum auction was designed to make more frequencies available for expanding volumes of wireless data traffic. But it required that stations assigned new channels would be available to the “the same geographic coverage area and population that that station currently reaches,” Meisch said.

A spokeswoman for WNCN’s corporate parent, Texas-based Nexstar Broadcasting Group, said the channel switch would have no impact on the station’s operations or its content.

The recent auction is funneling $10.05 billion to 175 broadcast stations, the FCC announced last week. WNCN’s spectrum fetched $52 million.

WNCN is scheduled to switch to channel 8 by Sept. 6, 2019.

“They will be required to give viewers at least 30 days notice before doing so to ensure that viewers using over-the-air antennae know to rescan for channels on a certain date,” Meisch said.

The one glitch that could affect antenna users, Meisch said, is that some HDTV antennas can’t receive VHF channels, or channels 2-13.

Subscribers to cable or satellite TV viewers won’t have to do anything to continue watching WNCN when the switch is made because their provider will make the necessary adjustment, he added.

WNCN is one of 30 stations involved in the auction that are moving to other channels. The others are giving up their licenses, although most of them intend to remain on the air by working out “channel sharing” agreements with other stations.

Stations such as WNCN accepted less money than they would have otherwise received so that they could switch channels, Meisch said.

The $52 million paid for WNCN’s spectrum, minus auction expenses and taxes, will go to former shareholders of Media General.

In January Media General, which owned WNCN, was acquired by Nexstar for cash and stock valued at $4.6 billion. The terms of that deal called for the spectrum auction proceeds of the former Media General stations to go to that company’s shareholders, said Nexstar spokeswoman Jennifer Neuman.

The auction generated gross revenue of $19.8 billion, making it the second-largest auction in the FCC’s history but bringing in significantly less money than many analysts initially projected, according to Reuters. Of the total amount, $7.3 billion is going to the the U.S. Treasury to reduce the federal deficit.

The winning wireless bidders, which included companies such as T-Mobile, Dish Network and Comcast, didn’t acquire spectrum directly from the TV stations. Instead, the FCC purchased the spectrum from the stations with funds provided by the winning bidders.

David Ranii: 919-829-4877, @dranii

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