FCC Dismisses 3000 FM Translator Applications from 2003 Filing Window - Next Stop, a Settlement Window?
The FCC last week issued a Public Notice announcing the dismissal of approximately 3000 FM translator applications. This was as a result of its requirement that applicants from the 2003 FM Translator Window select no more than 70 total applications to prosecute (see our articles here and here), and no more than 3 in any Arbitron market where there were significant number of translator applications filed. Applications that did not meet these limits were dismissed.
The FCC is planning to move quickly on the remaining FM translator applications in hopes that they can complete the processing of the backlog of applications so that a window for the filing of new Low Power FM ("LPFM") applications can be opened before the end of this year. So what is the next step in processing these applications? The next significant step will be for the FCC to open a "settlement window" where the remaining applicants can talk to each other and try to reach agreements as to which applications should be granted before an auction. In most FCC auctions, discussions between competing applicants in the auction are strictly prohibited – and applicants who violate the "anti-collusion rules" can be severely punished. But, in authorizing auctions, Congress permitted limited settlement windows in cases involving "secondary" services like translators – leading to the need for a settlement window in connection with these translator applications. No discussion between competing applicants is supposed to occur outside of that window. So be patient but get prepared – as the time to talk to competing applicants in the settlement window should be coming soon.