An FCC decision in a case involving two applicants for a construction permit to construct a new noncommercial television station in Tulsa illustrated an interesting dilemma that can arise from the application of the "point" system that is used to decide comparative cases for new noncommercial stations. We wrote about the point system, here. In this case, neither of the applicants enjoyed a Section 307(b) preference for superior technical coverage. And neither had any preferences for being part of a statewide network. Instead, the only differences between the applicants was that one was a local, established non-profit organization (Oral Roberts University), while the other was not a local group, thus giving ORU 3 points under the comparative system. The non-local applicant received 2 points as it had no other station in the market. Thus, Oral Roberts received the grant – despite the fact that it already had another television station in the same city.
Commissioner Copps, while not specifically dissenting from this decision, did point out that the decision might not really be one that served the public. Is it really better, he asked, that a second television station be awarded to a local group, or would the local community be better served by a new voice – even if that voice was not from a local community organization? While Commissioner Copps did not mention it, under the comparative hearing system used to evaluate commercial applicants before the adoption of the auction system now in use, favored diversity of ownership (not having other media interests) over local ownership. Seemingly, almost any system of selection will lead to some anomalous results that may demonstrate the need to reexamine the system from time to time to determine if it really does benefit the public, or if it is simply making arbitrary distinctions between applicants. This may be one of those cases showing that it is time for a reexamination.