The FCC’s staff today issued an Order resolving 26 Groups of mutually exclusive FM applications submitted last year in the filing window for new noncommercial FM stations. We wrote about a previous order in August, processing a smaller group of such applicants. In each of these groups, the Commission analyzed the coverage proposed by the applicants to determine if the technical service that they propose to provide was superior to that of other applicants – a "fair distribution analysis." In these cases, the Commission found that one applicant was preferred under an analysis that looks at the populations to be served by these applicants that do not already currently receive service from more than one noncommercial station. The "tentative selectees" of the Commission are now subject to the filing of petitions to deny and, if no petitions are filed in the 30 day filing window, these applications will be granted.
This Order did not deal with cases where there was no dispositive preference based on coverage – cases where the FCC will have to conduct a "points system" analysis (see our summary of those factors here). Presumably, those will come later. For parties who had applications on the Order and who were not winners, a review of the decision is in order. The Commission has been known to make mistakes in this kind of analysis and, as much reliance is put on information supplied by applicants, some of the information may not be correct, or may not rely on consistent assumptions applied in the same way in counting the populations served by each applicant. We’ve heard that there may be some of these windows where the winning applicant ignored (or asked for a waiver of) the limitations on the power of noncommercial stations near Channel 6 TV stations, on the theory that most of these TV stations, operating adjacent to the FM band, will be going away in February after the digital television conversion. This is a controversial issue (see our post here on the Commission’s action with respect to applications to improve existing stations that relied on the same assumptions), which may well be challenged in reconsideration filings if these rumors are true. So, as always, stay tuned to see how this process develops.