The FCC announced that it will open a window for new noncommercial FM stations and major changes in noncommercial stations – with all applications to be filed between October 12 and October 19. This is the first filing window to be opened for new noncommercial stations in almost 7 years, so the demand for these channels will no doubt be high. The FCC’s Public Notice just announces that the window will open, but does not provide any specifics – which are promised in a later public notice.
There are many issues that will need to be discussed in any subsequent notice. First, the Notice released today indicates that the window will cover applications for stations in the noncommercial reserved band – between 88.1 and 91.9 on the FM band. However, since the last noncommercial window, the FCC has also reserved a number of allotted channels in the commercial band for noncommercial use – and these do not appear to be covered by the window notice.
Also, there have been discussions of the possibility of limiting applicants to a certain number of applications, or taking other actions to restrict the number of applications for these channels. With the new point system adopted by the FCC since the last filing window, local applicants are favored over national groups that may file applications – so if applications are limited, these national groups may well be effectively foreclosed from obtaining any channels in the window, as the choice of a limited number of channels may end up forcing these applicants to pick channels where there are local applicants who will prevail in any point system analysis.
We will see how this window develops in the coming months.