The FCC has just released a Public Notice providing guidance on various situations that may arise under the new simplified processing rules for changes in the city of license of AM and FM stations. These clarifications had been promised for many months, ever since the new rules became effective in mid-January. The Public Notice sets out a number of scenarios as to when a broadcast station may change its channel or make a change in a city of license by using a Form 301 application, be processed on a first-come, first serve basis, not subject to competing applications, and when a more lengthy process must be used, requiring public notice and comment and the opportunity for counterproposals, before the change can be made.
For those who have been involved in the filing of these applications since the January 19 effective date of the rules, and who have informally discussed these processes with the FCC, there are few if any major revelations in the Public Notice. Essentially, city of license changes can be made on an application where the proposal moves a station from one city to another, when no new station could be located at the second city because of the licensed facilities of the station. One clarification that had been discussed with the staff in preparation for applications already on file, and confirmed by this notice, is the fact that the new rules allow the change of channel of an existing station, at its current city of license, to a nonadjacent channel (one which is not precluded by the current station operation), using a Form 301 application, as long as there is no upgrade in facilities of the station. Thus, a station could move from 92.1 to 105.3 (if it works under the FCC’s technical standards), without any sort of notice and comment or competing proposal. In some cases, the station could use this process to change channels, then file an upgrade application on the new channel, and complete a non-adjacent channel upgrade through a two step process never subject to formal comment or counterproposals.
Even for those without applications currently pending, this public notice is worth reading, as it may give the broadcaster ideas of possible changes that can be made to improve the facilities of its stations.