Three months ago, we wrote about a case where the FCC held that it would grant only one application from each MX Group in the recent NCE FM window for new noncommercial FM radio stations. MX Groups arise when multiple applicants file applications that cannot all be granted without prohibited interference. In some cases, an MX Group can span several states, where not all applications are mutually exclusive with each other, but all are tied together in a chain, with each link being mutually exclusive with the next link. The FCC has just released another decision, slightly refining the decision from March. In the new case, the FCC dismissed one applicant on essentially the same grounds as in the case from March – the only reason that the dismissed application could stand on its own was because other applications with which it was mutually exclusive were themselves dismissed because of the application that was to be granted as a result of the FCC decision selecting the preferred application in the MX Group. However, in the new case, the FCC did allow for the grant of a second application in the same MX Group, where that application was no longer mutually exclusive with the winner or with other dismissed applications because its mutually exclusivity with the chain of application was broken by the voluntary dismissal of another applicant and the settlement with yet a third. Because of these two actions, the FCC said that this application was not in the same circumstances as was the application whose dismissal was upheld.
What this case seems to say is that, even after a 307B) grant order is released by the FCC, another application in an MX Group can possibly be granted if it is made grantable before the official dismissal is released, not by the dismissal of applications that are only dismissed because they lost the FCC comparative analysis, but if the actions eliminating the mutual exclusivity were caused by other voluntary actions. A slim exception – but one that NCE applicants in MX Groups where they are not technically precluded by the grant of the winning application may want to explore if they do not prevail in an FCC 307(b) analysis.