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

On Thursday, the Obama administration appointed FCC Commissioner Michael Copps to be the Acting FCC Chairman until the administration selects its permanent Chairman, and that person is confirmed by the Senate.  As we’ve written, the rumors are that the permanent Chair will be Julius Genachowski, a former classmate of the President.  But, as far as we know (and according to the White House website’s list of appointments made so far), that appointment has not yet been formally made and sent to the Senate Commerce Committee for the initiation of hearings on the qualifications of the nominee.  Commissioner Copps is the most senior of the remaining three Commissioners (Democrat Jonathan Adelstein and Republican Robert McDowell being the other two remaining Commissioners), and has been an outspoken advocate of more stringent regulation of the public interest performance of broadcasters (see, for instance, our posts here and here).  What will his appointment as interim FCC chairman mean for broadcasters?

Initially, it would seem reasonable to assume that the Acting Chair will be principally occupied with the DTV transition, as least for the next few weeks, and perhaps longer if the pending legislation to delay the transition deadline until June 12 is adopted.  It would also seem reasonable to assume that the Commission, at least for the short term, will not be tackling major regulatory initiatives (like the localism proceeding), until the permanent FCC Chair has taken office.  One of the initial Executive Orders that was issued by the Obama administration was to freeze the actions of administrative executive agencies until the political appointments made by the administration have been confirmed and taken their places, so that the new administration is not saddled by regulations that don’t fit with its overall political agenda.  While many in DC believe that this order does not apply to an "independent agency" like the FCC (which technically does not report to the administration, but instead to Congress), it would be reasonable to assume that the spirit of the order would be followed by the FCC.


Continue Reading Commissioner Michael Copps Named As Acting FCC Chairman – What Does It Mean for Broadcasters?

In a very unusual process – one that is probably unprecedented – the FCC last week announced that it is opening a window for parties to file applications for a new AM station to serve Rockland County, New York.  AM stations are traditionally made available for filing on an on-demand basis – when the FCC accepts applications for new stations, parties can file in any location in the country, specifying any city of license that they select, as long as the station that they propose will not create interference to existing stations.  This is unlike FM and TV, where there is a two step process – new channels are first allotted at specific locations based on a party’s request, but that party gets no rights to the channel.  Instead, after the allotment has been made, anyone can file for in a specified window seeking a construction permit to build the new station.  In this window, the FCC has adopted a unique process for an AM stations, a process much more like that used in FM and TV.  The Commission had been asked by a party for permission to operate a new station in Rockland County.  Instead of simply permitting that party to build a station without competition, the FCC decided that a new station was necessary to provide emergency information about the nuclear power plant in the Rockland area, but determined that anyone could file for that channel.  Applications for the channel (1700 AM – on the expanded band, for which there have been no applications for almost 10 years since the first set of expressions of interest were taken), will be accepted from October 1 through October 5.

In order to give parties the ability to prepare applications, the FCC is imposing a freeze on the filing of minor change applications for AM stations throughout the country during the filing window.  Any minor change application that is filed during the window will be returned.  So if you are planning an application for a technical change to your AM station, you need to plan to avoid that filing window.


Continue Reading AM Filing Freeze While FCC Accepts Applications for a New AM in Rockland County, New York