The FCC has released a public notice asking for comment on the procedures that it plans to use for a new FM auction now scheduled to be held in September.  The channels to be included in that auction, and the proposed minimum bids for those channels, can be found on a list released by the Commission, here.  Parties who are interested in bidding for any of these channels will be able to submit short form applications indicating the channels in which they are interested at some point to be determined in the future – probably late Spring or early Summer, so that the FCC can process those applications and receive the necessary upfront payments from parties interested in the auction in time for the auction itself to begin in September.  Thus, parties who are interested in any of these channels should start their due diligence process now, and determine which channels may be of interest, and which channels can actually be built in such a way as to cover areas that an applicant may want to serve, so that they can be ready to file their applications, probably in May or June.

Applications, when filed, will not need to specify a specific transmitter site but, once the auction is over, winning bidders will need to quickly identify and file complete applications containing specific transmitter sites for which they have reasonable assurance.  Thus, they should begin preparations for the auction now.  Applicants who have identified a site can specify that site in their applications to protect it from subsequent applications.  Thus, FM broadcasters should also anticipate a freeze on the filing of any FM technical applications at some point in late Spring in anticipation of the auction, in order to give applicants a stable technical situation so that they can identify usable transmitter sites. 


Continue Reading FCC to Hold Auction for New FM Stations in September

In two decisions (here and here) released last week, the FCC fined broadcasters $3200 and $2400 after inspections of the stations revealed that the licenses for their Studio Transmitter Link ("STL") did not list the proper location for these stations.  In both cases, it appeared that the stations had changed their studio

The FCC today issued three orders imposing fines on broadcasters – cutting no slack to anyone.  These cases demonstrate how important strict compliance with all FCC rules is to avoid fines before the current Commission.  The first decision imposed a fine of $2800 on a broadcaster for having an unfenced tower – where the broadcaster claimed that the fence was temporarily removed to facilitate the clearing of brush as required by local authorities to remove a potential fire hazard.  While the FCC seemed to recognize that the fence removal was temporary, and that it was missing for only a few weeks while weed killer was being applied at the site, the Commission still imposed the fine – requiring that access to an AM tower always be restricted, prohibiting open access even for a short period.

The second case was a decision which imposed a fine of $2000 on a broadcaster for operating from an unauthorized transmitter site.  While the broadcaster had received Special Temporary Authority (an "STA")  to operate from the site, the STA expired.  The broadcaster filed an extension request, but forgot to include the filing fee check.  The broadcaster claims that he re-filed the request, and had a canceled check to prove it, although the Commission had no record of the re-filed STA (though the FCC did acknowledge having received the check).  Finding that it had no record of the re-filed STA, and further finding that the applicant should have inquired about the failure to receive an STA extension after 180 days (the length of an STA), the Commission imposed the fine on the broadcaster.  While this case is certainly complicated by the missing extension request, given the canceled check one would assume that broadcaster must have filed something, and the FCC’s usual rule is that if an STA extension is on file, the station can continue to operate.  Of course, with an extension that was pending for 2 years, probably some inquiry was warranted.  But whether it was a $2000 mistake is a different question.


Continue Reading FCC Cuts No Slack on Fines – Temporarily Unfenced Tower, Expired STA, Former Owner – All Draw Fines