All commercial broadcasters (AM/FM/TV and even LPTV) have to file their Biennial Ownership Reports on December 1, beginning a very busy month in the broadcaster’s regulatory world.  December 1 is also the deadline for noncommercial ownership reports to be filed by noncommercial radio stations in Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont, and noncommercial television stations in Colorado, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota (see our Advisory here)Annual EEO Public File reports are also due to be in station files for stations in all of the states where noncommercial stations have ownership filings (see our Advisory on the EEO Public File Report here).  License renewals for radio broadcasters in Georgia and Alabama are also due on that date (see our License Renewal advisory here) , as are the Commission’s cut of the ancillary and supplementary revenues made by digital television broadcasters (our summary here).  And all full-power broadcasters need to file their reports on the results of the recent Nationwide EAS Test by December 27 (see our post here).

December also brings a Commission meeting, at which the CALM Act rules will be adopted according to the tentative agenda for the December 12 meeting.   The CALM Act is intended to eliminate loud commercials.  These rules are required by statute to be adopted in December (see our summary of the proposed rules here).  Comments on a number of other FCC proposals in rulemaking proceedings are also due. The FCC just announced  that comments in the proceeding to determine if FM digital operations using the IBOC technology (so-called HD Radio) can operate with different power levels on each side of the main channel are due by December 19 (see our summary of this proceeding here). Comments on the controversial proposal for the online public inspection file for television stations are due on December 22.Continue Reading December 1 Deadline for Biennial Ownership Reports Begins A Busy Regulatory Month for Broadcasters

The Commission today released its further Public Notice establishing the filing dates and adopting the procedures for the upcoming auction of 119 New FM Radio channels, scheduled to start on March 27, 2012.  The auction has been designated as FM Auction No. 93 and offers vacant FM allotments in various communities across the country.  Although the Commission removed four allotments

Looking for opportunities for a new FM station?  The FCC has just released a list of new FM channels to be auctioned in the next FM auction, scheduled to begin on March 27, 2012, along with the proposed rules for that auction.  On the list of channels, the proposed minimum bid for each channel is also set out.  If the Commission follows the schedule used in prior auctions, we should expect that the deadline for the "short-form" application to participate in the auction (which basically contains information about the ownership of the applicant and a list of the channels in which they are interested) will be due in early 2012, likely sometime between January 1 and January 15, 2012.  The upfront payment of the necessary minimum bids would then likely be due around February 20, 2012 or so.  In another Notice of Proposed Rulemaking released late last week, the FCC also proposed to delete a number of FM channels that have gone unsold in previous auctions.

The construction permits for the new stations that will be available in the auction are spread all across the country.  Many are located in large western states including multiple channels in California, Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas, among other states.  But there are even opportunities in eastern states like Florida, Vermont and Virginia.  So, if you are interested in starting a station from scratch, look through this list of channels to see if there are opportunities for a construction permit for a new station in which you might be interested.  If you find something that might be interesting, you need to start your due diligence on each channel now, as the bidder is responsible for insuring that the channel for which they are bidding can be built and will serve the audience that the applicant expects.  If you win the auction and decide that you can’t really find a transmitter site, then you may well be on the hook for the full amount of the bid even if you don’t build the station.  And, if you are successful in the auction, you will have to have an available transmitter site to specify in your "long-form" application about a month after the end of the auction – an application which will specify all of the technical details of the new station.  So look at zoning issues, FAA considerations, coverage questions, and even whether technical details like the rural radio order limiting move-ins of FM stations from rural to more urban areas, may limit the potential economic value of the channel in which you are interested. Continue Reading Auction for New FM Stations Scheduled for March – Look for Filing Deadline Late This Year – FCC Also Proposes Deletion of Channels for Which No Bids Were Received

The FCC is now accepting Form 175 applications for FM Auction 91 – an auction of 144 new FM channels across the country.  Applications are due between now and February 10.  We wrote about the auction here, and the list of channels to be auctioned is available here.   So, if you are interested in a new FM channel, act now!

While this auction is proceeding, in a recent case, the FCC addressed what to do with new FM channels that are not yet set for auction.  The FCC regularly receives petitions for rulemaking, seeking the addition of new FM channels.  Once allotted, these channels may sit on hold for a year or more before being listed for an auction like that now starting.  There are many such channels awaiting auction now, and not included in Auction 91.  During that period between auctions, owners of existing stations may find that these vacant allocations block upgrades or other changes that the owners may want to make to their existing stations.   Until recently, the existing licensee could suggest changes to the new allotments while they were sitting there waiting to be put out for auction – changes including restricting the transmitter site location for that new channel, changing the city of license for the allotment, downgrading it, or even deleting the channel altogether.  As set forth in the recent case, the policy has been to entertain these proposals, unless there was a showing that there was a party ready to file for the vacant allotment.  In the recent case, the FCC decided that no future proposals to change vacant allotments would be entertained, as the Commission believes that all channels have someone who is interested in the channel, or there will be an interested person when the next auction begins.  This policy will govern all future proceedings, with the limited exception that the FCC will entertain a change in frequency for a new allotment, as long as no other changes are made in that allotment (i.e. it stays at the same location and will continue to be able to operate with the same power).Continue Reading As Applications for New FM Auction Are About to be Filed – FCC Clarifies Rules on Changes to New Allotments

Applications to participate in the auction of 144 new FM channels are to be filed at the FCC between January 31 and February 10, 2011.  The FCC today released a Public Notice setting out the dates and procedures to be used in the auction.  Upfront payments of the minimum bids for channels in the auction will be due on March 21.  The auction itself will begin on April 27 – a postponement of about a month from the dates originally proposed as the initially scheduled dates could have resulted in the auction running through this year’s NAB Convention, making it difficult for some entities to participate.  We had written about the initial announcement of the proposed auction here.  Note that the list of channels available in the auction has changed slightly, as a few channels originally listed for sale were deleted when it was discovered that they were not vacant or were otherwise not available to be sold.  Thus, the auction will include only 144 channels, not the 147 originally proposed.  The list of open channels is available here, and this list also sets out the minimum bids established for each channel.

To freeze the FCC database so as to allow applicants in the filing window to specify a transmitter site that will be protected from new applications, the FCC will freeze the filing of all applications for minor changes to existing FM stations during the filing window.  Thus, if you need a technical change in an FM station, get that application on file before the January 31-February 10 window.  The FCC Issued a Public Notice setting out the details of the freeze.  After the window, all subsequently filed applications for minor changes in existing stations will need to protect sites specified for the new channels during the window.  The FCC also froze – effective right now – any rulemaking proposal asking for a change in the coordinates assigned to any of the channels to be sold in the auction. Continue Reading FCC Announces Filing Window and Minimum Bids for Next Auction for 144 New FM Stations – And a Freeze on FM Minor Change Applications

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.Continue Reading FCC Plans March Auction for New FM Stations – 147 New FM Licenses for Sale

Interested in a brand new full power digital television station in Atlantic City, New Jersey, or Seaford, Delaware?  Then the FCC has just what you’re looking for, provided that you’re ready, willing, and able to build the station from the ground up and don’t mind a low VHF channel.   The Commission today issued the first auction

The dates and minimum bids are set – and the next auction for new FM stations is a go for September 1, 2009Applications to participate in the auction are due during the period June 16 to June 25, and must be filed electronically at the FCC, specifying on which of the 122 available channels an applicant is interested in bidding. Full, detailed auction instructions can be found in the FCC’s Public Notice, and the list of available channels and the minimum bids for each is available here. To give time for applicants to prepare their applications, the Commission has also initiated a variety of freezes on the filing of certain FM applications.

A freeze on any application or Petition for Rulemaking seeking a change in the channel of any channel proposed for use in this auction has been imposed effective immediately. Applications that shortspace any of the reference points for any of these stations are also barred. A subsequent freeze on the filing of any minor change application by an FM licensee will also be imposed during the June window. These freezes are to give applicants for channels the opportunity to evaluate which channels are worth bidding for, and to specify specific transmitter sites for certain channels (different than the reference coordinates) which will be protected during the auction process. Thus, applicants who see the potential for an increase in value of one of these channels that may come through the location of the station at a particular transmitter site can specify that site, protecting it and the value that they see. Continue Reading Rules for September Auction for New FM Stations Set – Application Filing Deadline Is June 25

The FCC has released a public notice asking for comment on the procedures that it plans to use for a new FM auction now scheduled to be held in September.  The channels to be included in that auction, and the proposed minimum bids for those channels, can be found on a list released by the Commission, 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 at some point to be determined in the future – probably late Spring or early Summer, 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 September.  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, probably in May or June.

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 applications containing specific transmitter sites for which they have reasonable assurance.  Thus, they should begin preparations for the auction now.  Applicants who have identified a site can specify that site in their applications to protect it from subsequent applications.  Thus, FM broadcasters should also anticipate a freeze on the filing of any FM technical applications at some point in late Spring in anticipation of the auction, in order to give applicants a stable technical situation so that they can identify usable transmitter sites. Continue Reading FCC to Hold Auction for New FM Stations in September