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.