transmitter site availability

Last week, the FCC adopted an order making numerous changes to its processes for selecting winning applicants among mutually-exclusive applicants for new noncommercial broadcast stations, including noncommercial, reserved band full power FM stations and LPFMs. Applicants are “mutually exclusive” when their technical proposals are in conflict – meaning that if one is granted it would create interference to the other so that the other cannot also be allowed to operate. The changes adopted by the FCC, which we wrote about when first proposed here, affect not only the process of applying for new noncommercial stations and the system for resolving conflicts, but also address the holding period for new stations once construction permits are granted, and the length of permits for LPFM stations.

In cases involving mutually exclusive applications for new noncommercial stations, the FCC uses a “points system” to determine which of the mutually-exclusive applicants should have its application granted. The point system relies on paper hearings to determine which applicant has the most points, awarding preferences on factors such as whether they have fewer interests in other broadcast facilities, whether they are local organizations, and whether they are part of state-wide networks.
Continue Reading FCC Adopts Changes to Rules for New Noncommercial FM and LPFM Stations – Changing Application Processing Procedures and Holding Periods

In a decision released last week, the FCC’s Audio Division denied the application for a new noncommercial FM station which had tentatively been selected to receive a permit for a new station because the applicant did not have reasonable assurance of transmitter site availability when it originally filed its application.  This case makes clear how important that issue can be in connection with any application for a new broadcast station, and even in connection with applications for site changes by existing broadcasters.  The FCC has long required that a broadcaster, before filing an application for a new or modified station, have reasonable assurance of transmitter site availability. This obligation applies not only to full-power radio and television applications, but also to applications for low power TV (LPTV) or low power FM (LPFM) stations, and to applications for FM or TV translators as well.  The reasonable assurance requirement basically insures that the applicant is making a realistic proposal to the FCC, one that can likely be built, and not just some theoretical proposal for a site at which a station could never be constructed.  If reasonable assurance is not obtained before the application is filed, the application is subject to dismissal, as this case makes clear.

Reasonable assurance has never required a binding legal commitment for the use of a particular transmitter site, but this case makes clear that something more than a mere possibility of the availability of the site is necessary.  In this case, a representative of the application had communicated with the tower owner, who said that the tower was currently at capacity, but that it was possible that, over time, some space on the tower could become available.  The FCC’s Audio Division concluded that was not enough, as it did not demonstrate a present availability to the applicant of the site at the time that the application was filed.  The FCC discussed the need for the applicant and the site owner to have a "meeting of the minds" as to the availability of the site before an applicant can specify it.  The assurance cannot be contingent on a future event that is unlikely to occur.


Continue Reading Planning a New Station or to Relocate an Existing One? FCC Clarifies the Need for Reasonable Assurance of Transmitter Site Availability