On October 16th, President Frederick issued a letter informing the public of Howard’s option to auction off WHUT to the Federal Communications Commissions (FCC). This transaction has the potential to bring in millions of dollars to the university, but at what cost? WHUT was the first publicly black owned television station in the country, and it has been the last one for the last 35 years.
In his address, he mentioned the four different routes Howard can take. The first option would be to sell the WHUT spectrum and relinquish its FCC noncommercial broadcast license. At first glance, the numbers seem tempting. However, the FCC runs a reverse auction. So, although the opening bid is set for $461 million, the bids will only drastically decrease until the FCC and the bidders settle. Then, that amount will be split amongst the FCC and the other stations that agreed to participate in the auction. Furthermore, the profit Howard receives will most likely not be put back into the School of Communications, which is the school that ultimately sacrificed.
The second option is to change from the current Ultra High Frequency (UHF) to the Very High Frequency (VHF) spectrum. The main difference between UHF and VHF signals are that UHF signals better penetrate wood, steel, and concrete and thus are better for urban environments; whereas, VHF signals interfere with one another and obstructions, making them better for open environments. Being that we are based in Washington, D.C., it would not be in our best interest to switch.
The third option is to partner or share broadcasting with another television broadcaster.
The fourth option is to not participate in the auction at all. With this option, Howard would not make any profits, but WHUT would remain solely under Howard’s ownership.
Nonetheless, the rules permit a station to state whether or not it has applied to participate in the auction, but not how it will participate. Dr. Frederick stated that, “If Howard applies to enter the auction, we will do so with a clear strategy.” Unfortunately, this statement is not as assuring as it was intended to be, and this is why we need to make a clear statement.
The application deadline to participate in the Broadcast Incentive Auction is December 18, 2015. Howard University’s Board of Trustees have already met on what we will do as a university but have not released the result.
The fourth option is the one desired. It is essential that we stress how important it is to preserve WHUT, and keep the station running within our ownership. Follow us on Twitter and share your support using the hashtag, "#KeepWHUTBlack". Thank you for your support.