The FCC today issued a long-awaited public notice, clarifying the relationship between FM educational stations and the analog Channel 6 TV stations that have or will be disappearing after the digital transition. As we’ve written before, the question of whether noncommercial FM stations could seek improvements in their facilities based on the imminent disappearance
The processing of the applications for new noncommercial FM stations marches on. This week, the FCC released a list of groups of Mutually Exclusive applications (commonly known by those who regularly deal with the FCC as "MX groups"), i.e. applications that are linked together in that, because of interference concerns, not all can be granted. …
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
With the filing window for new noncommercial FM radio stations opening this coming week (see our summary of the process, here), some potential applicants may be wondering who qualifies as an established local organization entitled to points in the comparative analysis that takes place if applications that are mutually exclusive (both cannot be granted without creating prohibited interference) are filed during the window. In a decision released this past week, the FCC clarified the rules as to what constitutes a local applicant – holding that simply having a mailing address for a headquarters in the proposed station’s service area is not sufficient.
In this case, an applicant claimed to have an established local presence necessary to qualify for points as a local applicant based on its "headquarters" which it said had been located within 25 miles of the proposed city of license for two years prior to the relevant date for evaluating the applicant’s comparative attributes, as required by the FCC’s rules. However, when a competing applicant visited the office building in which this supposed headquarters was located, there was no indication in the building directory or on any signs on any door in the building that the organization was located there, and no building personnel had any familiarity with the organization. The applicant justified its claimed local credit by claiming that the "headquarters" was an office at the specified location that housed a number of businesses and organizations with which one of its Board members was affiliated, and that all of those businesses could not be listed on signage or on the building directory. The Commission found that the mere presence of an office was insufficient to qualify for credit, citing the Order adopting the NCE point system which said that the headquarters must be the organization’s principal place of business or the principal residence of one of its members, and not just a post office box, lawyer’s office, branch office or vacation home. To qualify for points as an established local organization, the applicant must have activities and familiarity with the local service area that will permit it to "hit the ground running" in serving the public.