The FCC has begun the process of resolving the groups of mutually exclusive noncommercial FM radio applications. In an Order released today, the FCC decided 12 groups of mutually exclusive applications ("MX Groups") by analyzing only one decisional factor – the question of "fair distribution" of noncommercial service. As we wrote when we set out the criteria for FCC decision making , when the FCC chooses between mutually exclusive groups of applications for new Noncommercial Educational ("NCE") stations, the initial level of analysis is a consideration of whether the application serves extensive areas where there is little other noncommercial radio service. If a station covers any area that currently has fewer than 2 noncommercial radio services, and that area exceeds 10% of the proposed service area of the applicant covering more than 2000 people, a conclusive preference will be awarded over another applicant who does not meet that threshold. All of today’s decisions were made based on this criteria.
One interesting aspect of the decisions was how many cases were essentially won by default – as a number of applicants did not bother to compute the areas and the populations that they served. Where that information was not provided in the initial application as submitted by the applicant, the Commission gave the applicant no credit for any service. So even if an applicant submitted an application that would in reality serve underserved areas, if they did not claim that service in their initial application, they got no credit for the service. The FCC did not fill in any blanks in the applications. So, if you are planning to claim credit for anything in an application – be sure to do it up front when the application is filed, or you’ll get no credit.
These are not final decisions, as petitions can be filed within 30 days against any of the selected applicants challenging any of their qualifications. In fact, as the FCC decisions seem to be based on coverage analysis as submitted by the applicants themselves, some may challenge those computations. But, where no challenge is filed, these applicants will be granted, and the applicants can build new noncommercial educational FM stations.