The FCC this week announced groups of mutually exclusive (“MX”) LPFM applications, i.e. those groups where applications are for the same or adjacent channels where the grant of one application in the group would preclude other applications in that same group.  The Public Notice is here, and the list of MX groups is here.  The importance of the FCC’s announcement for LPFM applicants is that it gives the applicants 60 days, until February 14, 2014, to amend their applications to make minor changes that will resolve the MX situations (e.g. moving to an adjacent or IF channel or making a slight site change that will eliminate the interference with the other applications that would result if the applications were granted as they now stand). 

Applications left in the MX group at the end of the 60 day period will be subject to a “point system” analysis, granting the application which has the highest number of points in the FCC’s system for deciding between mutually exclusive applicants (giving points for the following:

  • (1) having an established community presence of at least two years;
  • (2) pledging to originate locally at least eight hours of programming per day;
  • (3) pledging to maintain a publicly accessible main studio that has local program origination capability;
  • (4) certifying that you qualify for a point under both the local program origination and the main studio criteria;
  • (5) certifying that neither you nor any party to your application has an attributable interest in another broadcast station; and
  • (6) being a Tribal Applicant proposing to locate your transmitting antenna site on your Tribal Lands).

Note that no amendment that is filed now can improve an applicants comparative position under these point system criteria.  Applicants are locked into the points that they claimed when they initially filed their applications. 

Full-power FM licenses need to watch this process play out, and be alert for proposed changes that might create interference to their stations.  As we wrote two weeks ago when the FCC started to accept LPFM applications, there is a limited period of time in which to petition against LPFM applications that may potentially cause interference to full-power stations.  With “singleton” applications, that was relatively easy to assess, as the mutually exclusive applications were all on the original lists of the applications filed in the FCC’s window.  Petitions are due within 30 days of these applications being “accepted for filing” – which is announced in the FCCs public notices on a regular basis.  But, for these mutually exclusive applicants, amendments specifying new frequencies may come in at almost any time, meaning that licensees need to be constantly vigilant to assure that an amendment to a new frequency is not one that will include a potentially interfering proposal.  This is especially true if the amendment “disengages” the applicant from the MX group, making it a singleton that could be accepted for filing, triggering the 30 day comment period.  If one were to assume that the LPFM applications were most likely to have initially selected the “cleanest” channels (the ones with the least potential for interference to full-power stations) in their initial applications, these amendments will likely be to channels where there are potentially more problems.  Thus, full-power stations need to be alert that no amendments are filed that could impact your operations.  Task your engineer to watch these filings, or subscribe to an alert service to keep you up to date, as these changes could portend problems down the road.