The FCC yesterday dismissed a Petition for Reconsideration of its reexamination of the criteria that it uses for determining which application is granted when there are conflicting applications filed in any window for the filing of new noncommercial FM stations.  We wrote about the reexamination of the noncommercial selection criteria in our article here.  We did not mention the specific issue that was raised in the request for reconsideration, which is explained in more detail below.  The decision resolving this Petition may also be the last step before the FCC opens a window for applications for new stations in the FM reserved band (below 92 FM), something that has not happened in a decade.

In the reconsideration petition, one party asked the FCC to change the position that it has long taken – that if the FCC has to use its points system (the system that awards points for certain favored criteria – criteria including favoring local applicants who are well-established in a community and don’t already have another media outlet and those owned by statewide organizations) to decide between mutually exclusive applications – it will select only one winner even if, by selecting that one winner, other applications may have no technical conflict with the winning application.  The petitioner asked that, in this situation, the FCC grant additional applications once it has decided on the preliminary winner.  Let’s look at how this situation can arise.
Continue Reading FCC Dismisses Petition for Reconsideration of Reexamination of Noncommercial Licensing Policy – Next Step, Window for New Applications?

Here are some of the FCC regulatory and legal actions of the last week—and a congressional action in the week ahead—of significance to broadcasters, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.

  • The FCC on June 9 held an Open Meeting where it unanimously adopted a Declaratory Ruling and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding Broadcast Internet services. The Commission defines Broadcast Internet broadly as IP-based services delivered over broadcast TV spectrum.  The Declaratory Ruling clarifies that the lease by a party of ATSC 3.0 spectrum on multiple local TV stations for Broadcast Internet services does not count as an attributable interest under the current TV ownership rules as would an LMA or similar programming agreement on multiple stations.  The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeks comment on how industry foresees using Broadcast Internet services and what FCC rule change could encourage innovation and use of these services.  Comments and reply comments on the Commission’s proposals will be due 30 days and 45 days, respectively, after publication in the Federal Register.  (News Release) (Declaratory Ruling and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking) (Broadcast Law Blog)
  • Thirty-five radio stations received the news last week that they were randomly selected by the Enforcement Bureau for an audit of their compliance with the Equal Employment Opportunity rules. These periodic audits are good reminders to broadcasters that the Enforcement Bureau sees EEO compliance as a priority and that the Bureau can sanction stations for non-compliance.  Even if your station was not selected to be audited, you can still use the publicly-released audit letter as a checklist to make sure your station is complying with all applicable EEO rules.  The FCC audits about 5% of stations each year, so your time may come soon.  (Public Notice) (Broadcast Law Blog)
  • New technical rules for low power FM stations and the relation between reserved-band noncommercial FM stations and TV channel 6 were published last week in the Federal Register, setting the effective date for many of the new rules. New rules, including permission for LPFM stations to use boosters and the waiver process for NCE stations seeking a change in facilities near a Channel 6 TV station, become effective July 13.  Other new rules, including the broadening of the definition “minor change” and the expansion of the permissible use of directional antennas by LPFMs, require additional government action and likely will not be effective for several months.  (Federal Register) (Broadcast Law Blog)


Continue Reading This Week at the FCC for Broadcasters: June 6, 2020 to June 12, 2020

In April, the FCC modified a number of its rules regarding LPFM stations, and also modified its processing policies as to considerations of interference between Channel 6 TV stations and noncommercial FM stations operating on the reserved band (the low end of the FM dial).  We wrote about those changes here and here

The FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on LPFM and Channel 6 TV issues, which we wrote about here, was published in the Federal Register today. This sets the deadline for comments in this proceeding as October 21, 2019, with reply comments due by November 4. This proceeding looks at issues

With the end of the DTV transition, the future use of TV channels 5 and 6, about which we have written before, is now back before the Commission in connection with an FCC filing by the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council, whose "radio rescue petition" was recently placed on a public notice opening a 30 day public comment period.   The FCC already has before it comments filed in its Diversity proceeding suggesting that these channels be reallocated for radio use, as Channel 6 is immediately adjacent to the lower end of the FM band, and the sound from many analog channel 6 TV stations could be heard on FM receivers.  While this petition has been opposed by certain TV interests, it is interesting to note that many television operators have been acknowledging that VHF channels, which had been the preferred channels for analog operations, may not be as advantageous for digital use, especially in urban areas, and may be particularly problematic for use with mobile digital television systems which are about to be introduced.

 In an analog world, VHF channels (those between 2 and 13) were prized by broadcasters, as stations operating on those channels could operate at power levels significantly lower than UHF stations (saving electricity costs), and still cover greater areas.  Many broadcasters thought that these benefits, particularly the lower power costs, would carry over into the digital world, and opted to remain on VHF channels for their digital operations – in some case abandoning the UHF temporary transition channel on which they were operating digitally during the period when they were running both a digital and an analog station before the end of the transition, to return to their VHF channel for their final digital operation.  Right after the digital transition was complete and these stations had moved back to their old VHF channels for their digital operations, in several major markets, many broadcasters operating on VHF channels found that their digital operations had significant problems, as the power levels were insufficient to reach many over-the-air sets, particularly those using "rabbit ears" antennas in urban areas.  


Continue Reading Will TV Channel 6 Be Used For Radio? – MMTC Petition Raises the Issue, Again