A recent FCC staff decision dismissing an application for a new noncommercial educational (NCE) FM station on technical grounds highlighted a rarely used section of the FCC rules, Section 73.561(b).  That section provides that, when an NCE FM station does not regularly operate for at least 12 hours per day, another noncommercial entity can file an application proposing to use the frequency during the hours that the station is not operating and, if the existing licensee and the new applicant cannot agree on a shared operating schedule, the new applicant can ask the FCC to force the shared-time operation (for more on the recent case, see our summary in our weekly update of broadcast regulatory actions for last week).

The rule states that the FCC will typically only force a time share operation when an application asking for share-time authority is on file during the pendency of the existing station’s license renewal application.  As most radio license renewals have already been granted during the recent three-year cycle for radio license renewals that ended earlier this year, most NCE stations do not face a real risk of a forced share-time operation until the next renewal cycle starts in 2027.  But an application seeking frequency sharing can be filed at any time in situations where an NCE FM station does not regularly operate for at least 12 hours per day, forcing negotiations about a shared time operation, and no doubt increasing scrutiny on the station during its next renewal.  Thus, such NCE stations should review their operating schedules now and think about ways to minimize the risk of a forced share-time operation.
Continue Reading Reminder to Noncommercial FM Stations – Operating Less Than 12 Hours a Day Can Bring Forced Time-Share Requirement