A window for the filing of applications for new noncommercial FM stations in the reserved FM band (below 92.1 FM) appears to be on its way – either later this year or early next. As we reported in our summary of last week’s broadcast legal actions, Chairman Pai last week responded to a Congressional inquiry about the next window for new LPFM stations. In his letter, he stated that the LPFM window would follow a window for new noncommercial FM stations, as noncommercial applicants have not had the opportunity to file for new stations in a decade. The letter says that the NCE window will open after the recently adopted changes in the rules for processing these noncommercial applications become effective later this year (see our article here on those changes). The changes are waiting for Paperwork Reduction Act review before they can become effective.
In fact, the 2010 window for NCE applications was for a limited number of commercial frequencies that had been set aside and reserved for noncommercial use where the reserved band had constraints (see our article on that window here). The last window for reserved band FM stations (stations operating on 88.1 to 91.9 FM) opened in 2007 (see our article here). In that window, the FCC limited any applicant to 10 applications nationwide (see our article here). We would not be surprised to see a similar requirement in any new window. Stations in the reserved band can be located where no interference is caused to any already authorized FM station – so careful engineering analysis is required. Start your planning now as the analysis as to where a new station can be located can be time consuming.