A decision released by the FCC’s Media Bureau staff this week makes clear that the permittee of a noncommercial station, who was awarded the permit based on a 307(b) preference, cannot change transmitter sites so as to abandon service to the area that it promised to cover in order to get the preference –

The FCC’s staff today issued an Order resolving 26 Groups of mutually exclusive FM applications submitted last year in the filing window for new noncommercial FM stations. We wrote about a previous order in August, processing a smaller group of such applicants.  In each of these groups, the Commission analyzed the coverage proposed by the applicants

An FCC decision in a case involving two applicants for a construction permit to construct a new noncommercial television station in Tulsa illustrated an interesting dilemma that can arise from the application of the "point" system that is used to decide comparative cases for new noncommercial stations. We wrote about the point system, here.  In this

The Commission this week released an Order exempting certain small cable systems from the requirement that, after the February 2009 digital transition, for a three year period, cable systems carry both an analog version of a broadcast television station’s signal plus the station’s high definition signal.  This dual carriage requirement was imposed so that the

The FCC has scheduled a Summit on the Emergency Alert System ("EAS"), to be held on May 19.  The EAS system is the alert system used by broadcasters to pass on emergency information from government officials to their listeners.  EAS replaced the Emergency Broadcast System ("EBS") and was intended to be a more reliable substitute for the system originally adopted during the Cold War to convey a Presidential message about a nuclear attack or similar emergency to the entire country.  Over the years, the system has adapted to include information about local emergencies and "amber alerts" about the kidnapping or disappearance of children.  However, especially since 9-11 and some of the hurricanes in the South, questions have been raised about the effectiveness of the system, and means to make the distribution of emergency information more reliable and efficient have been sought.  The FCC currently has a rulemaking pending to determine ways in which that system can be made more efficient – a question sure to be addressed at the Summit.

In the current proceeding on reforming the EAS system, one of the questions that has been asked is how the system should be activated for non-Federal emergencies.  Obviously, the President can still activate the system for a national emergency, but how alerts about local emergencies are initiated is one of the more controversial issues in the proceeding.  Currently, there is no uniform system.  Instead, each state’s system may have different points from which an alert can be initiated.  Concerns have been raised that if the ability to initiate an alert is too broadly distributed, alerts may be initiated haphazardly, and if too many alerts are issued, the system will lose its impact and other important programming may be preempted unnecessarily.  Thus, proposals have been made that the alerts should be initiated only by a state’s Governor or his or her specifically designated representative. 


Continue Reading FCC Schedules Summit on Status of EAS

On Friday, the FCC released a Public Notice setting out several groups of applications for new noncommercial FM stations which are mutually exclusive with each other.  These applications were filed in the October window for new noncommercial FM stations (information about which can be found here).  According to the Public Notice, the identified groups

The FCC’s Emergency Alert System ("EAS") is the bane of many broadcasters.  Failing to have operational EAS equipment, or otherwise failing to comply with the requirements of the rules, including failures to conduct the mandatory tests of the system, are among the most common causes of a fine following an FCC field inspection.  To help ensure compliance with the EAS

The Commission’s Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“Further NPRM”) regarding the next generation Emergency Alert System (“EAS”) has been published in the Federal Register, setting the date for Comments as December 3, 2007 and the date for Reply Comments as December 17, 2007.  This summer, the Commission adopted a Report and Order extending its

As we’re approaching the anniversary of September 11, it may be appropriate that the FCC issued an order on Friday upholding a fine imposed on a radio station that did not have an operating EAS system.  The station, while it had a system in place that was capable of transmitting the required EAS tones, had not received any EAS alerts for about a year, and had not entered any reasons for that failure in its station log at any time during the period.  The FCC initially issued an $8000 fine, but reduced the fine to $6400 based on a showing that the station did not have any history of past violations.  However, even though the station was operating at reduced power for a significant period of time due to towers damaged by a storm, the FCC refused to reduce the fine further based on financial hardship as the fine did not exceed 2% of the station’s average gross revenue during the previous three years.

The FCC will reduce fines for a variety of reasons – the most common being the past good record of the station.  In most cases, as here, a showing that the station has not previously been fined will be sufficient to demonstrate the past compliance of the station and justify some reduction in the amount of the fine.  Stations also often plead that they cannot afford to pay a fine.  The 2% of gross revenue standard announced by the Commission in this case seems to set the threshold at which the Commission will consider that plea.  To prove that a reduction of a fine is in order, according to this case, a station needs to submit financial statements showing the past three years performance, and demonstrating that the proposed fine will exceed 2% of the station’s average gross revenues.


Continue Reading Fine For EAS Violation – Financial Hardship Not Enough to Merit a Reduction

In its Public Notice setting out the rules governing the upcoming filing window for applicants seeking new noncommercial FM stations or major changes in existing stations, which we wrote about here, the FCC has put applicants on notice of the many requirements that must be met in order to have an application considered in the upcoming process.  This is the first opportunity in this century for the filing of applications for new noncommercial FM stations. In order to participate, all applicants must make sure that they follow the rules set out by the Commission.  Applications will be due in a filing window that will open on October 12 and close on October 19.

Fundamentally, the FCC’s Public Notice reminds interested parties that, to be eligible, an applicant must be a noncommercial entity – a nonprofit corporation or a governmental organization.  Individual applicants or profit-making entities cannot participate.  As eligibility to participate and the comparative qualifications of all applicants are assessed at the time of filing, applicants need to assure their nonprofit status is in order before the upcoming filing window.

The Commission also sets out a number of other requirement for the applications that may be filed during the window. Applications submitted during the window will be filed electronically on FCC Form 340, and must contain very specific technical descriptions of the service they plan. The proposal must specify facilities that don’t interfere with other existing stations or pending “cut-off” noncommercial applications. The applicant must have received reasonable assurance of the availability of its proposed transmitter site (i.e. a legally binding contract is not necessary, but a commitment from the site owner that the site will be available and an idea of the terms on which that availability is premised must be obtained). 


Continue Reading Details on the Noncommercial Filing Window