starting a new radio station

At the end of last week, the FCC released several orders clarifying the rules for upcoming windows where construction permits for new FM channels will be made available to parties interested in starting new radio stations, and a few AM construction permits will also be auctioned off.  The Public Notice released on Thursday for commercial operators set the important filing dates and procedural rules for the July auction of 136 FM permits, as well as 4 AM permits in the St. Louis area that are available after an AM licensee whose license was challenged at renewal time surrendered the licenses for these AM stations (see the list of available channels here).  The FCC also issued a Public Notice setting a freeze on changes to other FM stations during the initial filing window, to stabilize the FCC’s database for parties interested in these new FM channels.  Also on Thursday, the FCC issued a draft order on the number of applications for which applicants will be able to apply in an upcoming reserved-band FM (channels below 92 on the FM band) filing window for noncommercial educational stations (NCE stations).

First, let’s look at the noncommercial draft order that is expected to be adopted at the FCC’s regular monthly Open Meeting on April 22 unless changes are made between now and then.  That order, about which we wrote here, asked whether the FCC should adopt a limit of 10 applications in the upcoming window for new noncommercial FMs or for major changes in existing stations.  While there were parties that requested that the limit be higher (particularly in rural areas where the likely demand will not be as great), and other parties expressed a belief that the limit should be lower (particularly as there will be few open channels in larger markets), the draft order suggests that the FCC will stick with the limit of 10 applications.  The FCC’s intent in adopting an application cap is to reduce processing backlogs and limit the number of situations where applicants will file applications that are mutually exclusive (i.e. where both cannot be granted without creating prohibited interference), while still allowing applicants to provide new noncommercial services throughout the country.  According to the draft order, the 10-application limit used in previous NCE windows still makes sense as a happy medium between the competing desires for expanded or narrower limits.
Continue Reading FCC Clarifies Upcoming Windows for Construction Permits for New Commercial and Noncommercial FM Stations (and a Few AMs Too)

March brings springtime and, with it, a likely reprieve from the cold and extreme weather much of the country has been suffering through.  As noted below, though, March brings no reprieve from the routine regulatory dates and deadlines that fill a broadcaster’s calendar.

TV operators have until March 8 to file comments in the Copyright Office’s Notice of Inquiry looking to assess the impact of the abolition of the statutory copyright license that allowed satellite television operators to import distant network signals into TV markets where there were households arguably not being served by a local network affiliate (see our article here).
Continue Reading March Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters: Copyright, White Spaces, and Zonecasting Comments; LPTV and Translator Analog-to-Digital Extension; Emergency Alerting for Streaming Companies, and More.

The FCC yesterday announced plans to hold an auction to award construction permits allowing the winners to build new radio stations. The auction notice includes 136 FM channels and, in a new wrinkle, 4 AM opportunities, for which bids will be able to be placed once the auction commences.  The list of channels to be auctioned is here – with many channels being in the state of Texas, with an assortment of others around the country. These channels are mostly those that had been included in an auction scheduled for last July which was cancelled because of COVID-19 (see our articles here and here).  In addition, a few newly available FM channels have been added to the list, as well as 4 AMs in the St. Louis area that are available because a licensee surrendered those licenses after a license renewal challenge.

The notice released yesterday asks for comments on the auction procedures to be used in awarding these channels, proposing procedures that are generally familiar to those who have participated in FM auctions in the past.  The auction is tentatively scheduled to begin on July 27. Working backward, that would mean that the initial “short-form” applications required for parties who want to participate in the auction would likely be due sometime in May.  Upfront payments equal to or greater than the minimum payments for the channels that an applicant ultimately wins in the auction will probably be due in June. 
Continue Reading Want a New Radio Station? FCC Proposes Procedures for a July 2021 Auction, Lists Channels to be Sold, and Imposes a Freeze on Certain Applications

The FCC has announced that it plans to hold an auction to award construction permits allowing the winners to build new FM radio stations. 131 total channels on which bids can be placed are included in the list of channels to be auctioned – with most being in the state of Texas. The auction is tentatively scheduled to begin on July 23. Working backward, that would mean that initial applications would likely be due sometime in May, and “upfront” payments equal to or greater than the minimum payments for the channels that an applicant ultimately wins in the auction will probably be due in June. To protect these allotments, the FCC has also imposed a freeze on the filing of FM applications that could affect applications for these channels.

The FCC’s freeze on applications that could impact these new stations is in place until the winning bidders file their post-auction applications. No applications or rule-makings can be filed that would request a change in one of these channels, or which would be short-spaced to one of the reference coordinates for these allocations.
Continue Reading Want a New FM Station? FCC Proposes FM Auction in July, Lists Channels to be Sold, and Imposes a Freeze on Certain Applications

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