Interested in a new FM radio station?  Now might be your chance.  The Commission today announced an upcoming auction, designated as FCC Auction No. 91, offering licenses for 147 new FM channels in various communities across the country.  The auction will begin on March 29.  Today’s public notice merely lists the channels to be auctioned and the proposed minimum bid in the auction to be associated with each channel, and asks for comments on the procedures that will apply in conducting the auction.  We would expect that applications to participate in the auction will probably be due sometime in or around January, 2011.  The list of the 147 licenses to be offered for sale is available here.  The FCC Public Notice asking for comment on the auction procedures is available here

Parties who are interested in bidding for any of these channels will be able to submit short form applications indicating the channels in which they are interested.  As stated above, we would expect these applications will be due sometime early in 2011, so that the FCC can process those applications and receive the necessary upfront payments from parties interested in the auction in time for the auction itself to begin in March.  Thus, parties who are interested in any of these channels should start their due diligence process now, and determine which channels may be of interest, and which channels can actually be built in such a way as to cover areas that an applicant may want to serve, so that they can be ready to file their applications.

Applications, when filed, will not need to specify a specific transmitter site but, once the auction is over, winning bidders will need to quickly identify and file complete construction permit applications containing specific transmitter sites for which they have reasonable assurance.  Reasonable assurance requires that there be a specific understanding with the landowner that the site will be available for the station, and some understanding as to terms on which the site will be available.  As the post-auction period for filing this full application will be short, and cannot be extended, applicants should begin preparations for the auction now, to be ready to file the long-form application in the event that they are a successful bidder.  Moreover, as the Commission expects applicants to have done diligence before they bid, applicants will be liable for the amount bid in the auction, even if the station ultimately cannot be constructed in the manner that the applicant expected.  One more reason to do your diligence now. 

Applicants who have identified a usable transmitter site can specify that site in their applications to protect it from subsequent applications.  Because of the upcoming filing window, FM broadcasters should also anticipate a freeze on the filing of any FM technical applications at some point late this year in anticipation of the auction filing window, in order to give applicants a stable technical situation so that they can identify usable transmitter sites. 

Note that, while there are 147 channels spread around the country, there seem to be a large concentration in Texas.  The remaining channels are all across the country.  So check out the list, and see what might be of interest. 

Comments on the procedures for the auction are due on October 13.