Emails to Board of Trustees reveal dissatisfaction with FCC auction

Abbie Robinson | Staff Photographer

While it is unknown whether Central Michigan University officials chose to participate in the Federal Communications Commission Spectrum Auction, the majority of those who emailed the Board of Trustees with concerns did not want CMU to participate.

Central Michigan Life obtained the emails sent to the board and the university's responses through a Freedom of Information Act request. On March 29, CMU needed to decide whether to participate in the auction. 

Because of federal anti-collusion laws, the university will not discuss whether it is participating. This is designed to "protect the integrity of the auction," said Steve Smith, director of public relations. Next, the FCC will review the requests filed by television stations across the country.

In December, the university applied for eligibility in the auction, which looks to buy television spectrum from stations across the country and repackage it for wireless carriers like Verizon and AT&T. This is because the public is now relying more on mobile devices as opposed to over-the-air waves. 

The FCC will choose whether to purchase CMU's spectrum through its five broadcasting stations and sell it to wireless carriers. The university's stations reach a combined value of $780 million, and an audience of 6.56 million, according to a FCC document.

The letters

The CMU Board of Trustees received 106 emails from across Michigan regarding the auction. 

Of those emails, two were in favor of selling CMU's public broadcasting stations. Ninety-six urged the university not to sell and the last eight asked questions about the auction, or solely criticized the board for not holding a public forum on the subject, referencing Michigan State University or Delta College. MSU issued a press release saying it will not sell its stations. Both schools also held public forums. 

Many emails detailed accounts of attachment to CMU's broadcasting, and expressed they looked forward or already had passed that down to their families. Some threatened to stop supporting the university with funding, and others noted public television is the only "family friendly" option for them to watch. 

"WCMU TV plays a large and vital part in my life, and that of my husband," one email read. "I urge you to consider very carefully all the possible ramifications of the auction decision. It is apparent that the money is very tempting. But there is so much more to consider, and so much more at stake."

The university replied with the same email to each person, no matter the concern or question.

"We recognize this matter is important to Michigan residents and are monitoring public reaction here and across the nation," the response reads. 

The replies also state discussions and decisions must be confidential.

"This does not follow our standard level of openness, but the rule is being used to protect the integrity of the auction and prevent unlawful manipulation of its pricing." 


About Sydney Smith

Sydney Smith is a super-senior at Central Michigan University. She comes from metro Detroit ...

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