Do you want to start a new FM station?   In what seems to have become a yearly event, the FCC has released a list of 117 new FM channels to be auctioned (a list that also includes the proposed minimum bid for each channel). The FCC also issued a “freeze” on FM applications that could impact these channels. The auction itself is scheduled to begin on March 26, 2013. If the Commission follows the schedule used in the last FM auction, 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 2013, likely sometime between January 1 and January 15, 2013. The upfront payment of the necessary minimum bids would then likely be due around February 20, 2013.

The channels in this auction on which new stations can be built are spread all across the country. Many are located in large western states, including multiple channels in California, Oklahoma, Arizona and Texas, among other states. 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 an area of interest. If you find something that you might consider, you need to start your due diligence on each channel now, as any bidder is responsible for insuring that the channel for which they are bidding can be built and will serve the audience that you expect. 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 submitted about a month after the end of the auction – an application that 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 FCC Announces Auction for 117 New FM Channels – And Freezes Certain FM Applications that Could Affect Those Channels

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