The Commission today published notice in the Federal Register revising the dates for submitting comments in its rule making "In the Matter of Promoting Diversification of Ownership in the Broadcasting Services."  If you will recall, this is the rule making proceeding that seeks comment on a number of new proposals, including whether to

UPDATE  5-29-2008-  Please note, the Commission has revised the dates for submitting comments in this rule making proceeding.  Comments in the proceeding are now due on or before June 30, 2008, and Reply Comments are due on or before July 14, 2008.  This means that interested parties have a couple of weeks less than

The FCC today released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking asking for public comment on its proposed Regulatory Fees for 2008.  These fees are paid annually by most commercial entities that are regulated by the FCC for the privilege of being regulated.  Noncommercial broadcasters are exempt from the fees.  The fees are normally paid in August or September, during a period of several days that will be established by the Commission after receiving comments on this proposed fee schedule.  The fees for broadcasters are, as they seemingly always do, increasing.  The Commission is also asking for comment on one specific change in how broadcast fees are collected, asking if it should collect fees from AM station licensees who have expanded band stations for both the expanded band station and the in-core channel, if the licensee is still operating both.  Currently, fees are only paid once by expanded band licensees. 

Broadcast fees are based on Class of Service and the population covered by a station.  For AM stations, the proposed fees are to increase from $400 per station for the least powerful stations in the smallest market to $450, and from $7275 for high-powered stations in the largest markets  to $7925.  For FM stations, the least powerful stations in the smallest markets are proposed to increase from $575 to $600.  For high power stations in big markets, the increase is from $9125 to $10,200.  For TV stations, the fees range from $1875 for a UHF station in the smallest markets, up to $69,400 for a VHF station in the largest markets, up from $1750 and $64,300 last year. 


Continue Reading FCC Proposes 2008 Regulatory Fee Schedule

We recently wrote about the Federal Communications Commission’s actions in their Diversity docket, designed to promote new entrants into the ranks of broadcast station owners. In addition to the rules adopted in the proceeding, the FCC is seeking comment on a number of other ideas – some to restrict the definition of the Designated Entities that are eligible to take advantage of these rules, others to expand the universe of media outlets available to potential broadcast owners – including proposals to expand the FM band onto TV channels 5 and 6, and proposals to allow certain AM stations, which were to be returned to the FCC after their owners received construction permits for expanded band stations, to retain those stations or transfer them to Designated Entities. The proposals, on which public comment is being sought, are summarized below.

Definition of Designated Entity. The first issue raised by the Commission deals with whether the class of applicants entitled to Designated Entity status and entitled to take advantage of the Commission’s diversity initiatives should be restricted. One proposal is to restrict the Designated Entity status to companies controlled by racial minorities. The Commission expressed skepticism about that proposal, noting that the courts had throw out several versions of the FCC’s EEO rules, finding that there was insufficient justification offered by the FCC to constitutionally justify raced-based preferences. The Commission asked that proponents of such preferences provide a “compelling” showing of needed, as necessary for a constitutional justification for governmental race-based discrimination.


Continue Reading FCC’s Acts to Increase Diversity in Media Ownership – Part 2, The Proposals for Future Actions – Channel 6 for FM, AM Expanded Band, Definition of Designated Entity, Must Carry for Class A TV and Others

In an unusually contentious FCC meeting, the FCC adopted rules that promote Low Power FM ("LPFM") stations seemingly to the detriment of FM translators and improvements in the facilities of full-power FM stations.  While no formal text of the decision has yet been released, the Commission did release a Public Notice summarizing its action.  However, given the lack of detail contained in the Notice as to some of the decisions – including capping at 10 the number of translator applications from the 2003 FM translator window that one entity can continue to process and the adoption of an interim policy that would preclude the processing of full-power FM applications that created interference that could not be resolved to an existing LPFM station – it appears that the Press Release was written before these final details were determined.  And given that the two Republican Commissioners dissented from aspects of this order supported by their Chairman (and also dissented on certain cable items considered later in the meeting), one wonders about the process that resulted in the Republican chairman of the FCC voting with the two Democratic Commissioners on an item that in many respects favors LPFM stations to the detriment of existing broadcast operators.

In any event, specific decisions mentioned in today’s meeting include:

  • Treating changes in the Board of Directors of an LPFM station as minor ownership changes that  can be quickly approved by the FCC
  • Allowing the sale of LPFM stations from one non-profit entity to another
  • Tightening rules requiring local programming on these stations
  • Maintaining requirements that LPFM stations must be locally owned, and limiting groups to ownership of only one station
  • Limiting applicants in the 2003 FM translator window to processing only 10 pending applications each, and requiring that they decide which 10 applications to prosecute before any settlement window opens (the two Republican Commissioners favored allowing applicants to continue to process up to 50 applications)
  • Adopting an interim policy requiring that full-power FM stations that are improving their facilities in such a way that their improvement would interfere with an LPFM station to work with the LPFM to find a way to eliminate or minimize the interference.  If no resolution could be found, the full-power station’s application would not be processed (which we have expressed concerns about before)
  • Urging that Congress repeal the ban on the FCC making any changes that would eliminate protections for full power stations from third-adjacent channel interference from LPFMs


Continue Reading FCC Meeting Adopts Rules Favoring LPFM, Restricting Translator Applications, and Possibly Impeding Full Service FM Station Upgrades

Twice this week, the FCC released decisions denying applications proposing city of license changes for AM stations proposing to take away the only station licensed to one community and move it to another.  In its order adopting simplified city of license changes (see our previous posts including those here and here), the FCC refused to change its policy of not allowing the removal of an established radio station which is the only station licensed to a community except in cases where an extraordinary showing justifying a  waiver of the rules could be made.  The two cases decided this week show that merely moving to a community with greater population (even one which has no other station licensed to it) will not, in and of itself, justify a waiver of the rules.  Thus, stations which are the only station licensed to their communities are effectively blocked from changing cities of license without  providing a "back-fill", i.e. moving another station so that it can be licensed to the community that would otherwise be abandoned.

In one case decided this week, the broadcaster proposed to move its AM station to a community that had three times the population of the one that it was proposing to leave.  The Commission rejected the move, finding that the residents of the current community should be able to rely on continued service from that station.  This was true even though other stations could be received in the community, as the Commission reminded licensees that their primary responsibility is to serve the needs of their city of license, and that this primary service cannot be duplicated by the secondary service provided by a station licensed to another town or city. 


Continue Reading FCC Says No To City of License Change Taking Away Community’s Only Radio Service

Last Friday, the rules on over-the-air digital radio for AM and FM stations – the IBOC system or, as it is commonly known, HD Radio – became effective.  The most immediate effect of the new rules, which we summarized here, is the ability of AM stations to operate using the IBOC system at night.  The Commission determined that such operation offered more benefits than any interference it might create.  The final rules also allowed stations to begin digital operations – and multicast operations – on a permanent basis without prior FCC approval.  As these rules take effect, some stations are beginning to look to the multicast channels to provide new programming opportunities.

NPR has, in many ways, led the efforts to utilize digital radio for multicast operations.  In today’s Washington Post, there is an article about the city’s NPR affiliate, WAMU, which has recently announced plans to take its multicast operations to a new level.  WAMU had in the past programmed a substantial amount of bluegrass music, a local DC favorite.  Over time, that programming had been reduced as the station broadcast more and more talk programming.  The station had moved bluegrass to a full time Internet radio stream, and has now announced plans to move all of the remaining bluegrass and roots music programming (which had been limited to Sundays) to one of its IBOC digital multicast streams – and to include live announcers during at least some of this digital programming.  The Post article quotes the station manager as saying that the local Best Buy now knows that HD Radio is different from the service that XM or Sirius provide.


Continue Reading IBOC Digital Radio Rules Become Effective – Some Stations Lead the Way on Multicasting