Last Friday we posted about the FCC’s announcement that it would open a filing window in December for noncommercial applicants interested in seeking authority for 67 existing vacant FM allotments. Today, the FCC revised the timing of that window and postponed the opening until February 2010. Accordingly, rather than accepting applications for these vacant noncommercial
The FCC today announced the opening of a filing window for noncommercial applicants interested in seeking authority for 67 existing vacant FM allotments. Applications on FCC Form 340 will be accepted from December 11th through December 18th for these vacant FM allotments in the non-reserved band between Channels 221 and 300. A full listing of the allotments that…
The FCC today issued a long-awaited public notice, clarifying the relationship between FM educational stations and the analog Channel 6 TV stations that have or will be disappearing after the digital transition. As we’ve written before, the question of whether noncommercial FM stations could seek improvements in their facilities based on the imminent disappearance…
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.
Political Broadcasting season is now in full swing, with the Democrats just ending their convention, and the Republicans beginning theirs next week. Already, we’ve seen disputes about third party attack ads (see our post here), and there are bound to be many more issues about the FCC’s political broadcasting rules that arise during what looks to be a very contentious political season. For guidance on many political broadcasting issues, you can check out our Political Broadcasting Guide, with discussions of many common political broadcasting issues (including reasonable access, equal opportunities, lowest unit rates, public file issues, and political disclosure statements) in what we hope is an easy to follow question and answer format. Broadcasters should also remember that the Lowest Unit Rate "political window" opens on September 5, meaning that stations cannot charge political candidates any more than the lowest rate that is charged a commercial advertiser for the same class of time run at the same time as the candidate’s spot.
We have reminded broadcasters that the Lowest Unit Rate (or "Lowest Unit Charge," often abbreviated as" LUC" or "LUR")must be available to all candidates for public office – including state and local candidates. While state and local candidates have no right of reasonable access (meaning that a station can decide not to sell time to those candidates, or to restrict their purchase of time to particular limited dayparts), if the station sells state and local candidates time, it must be at Lowest Unit Rates during the political window.
As part of its efforts to diversify the ownership of the broadcast media, the FCC promised in its recent order on Localism in the media (see our summary here) to have its engineering staff come up with a computer program to help people determine where a new FM station can be allotted by the…
Just over a week ago, the FCC decided to freeze the dismissal of FM translator applications of applicants who had more than 10 applications still pending at the FCC. As we have written, the FCC had ordered all applicants in the 2003 FM Translator filing window to dismiss all but 10 of their remaining…
Channel 6 of the television band is immediately adjacent to the lower end of the FM band. Noncommercial FM radio stations, located at the lower end of the FM band (88.1 FM to 91.9), have the potential to interfere with television stations on that channel. Thus, FCC rules require that noncommercial FM stations protect…
In the last few weeks, I’ve received several calls from broadcasters about on-air employees who have decided to run for local political office, and the equal time obligations that these decisions can create. Initially, it is important to remember that equal opportunities apply to state and local candidates, as well as Federal candidates. And the rules apply as soon as the candidate is legally qualified, even if the spot airs outside the "political windows" used for lowest unit rate purposes (45 days before a primary and 60 days before the general election). For more information about how the rules apply, see our Political Broadcasting Guide. In one very recent example of the application of these rules, a situation in Columbia, Missouri has been reported in local newspaper stories concerning a radio station morning show host who decided to run for the local elective hospital board. To avoid having to give equal time to the host’s political opponents, the station decided to take the employee off the air. This was but one option open to the station, as set forth in the article, quoting the head of the Missouri Broadcasters Association, who accurately set out several other choices that the station could have taken.
These choices for the station faced with an on-air host who runs for office include:
- Obtain waivers from the opponents of the station employee allowing the employee to continue to do his job, perhaps with conditions such as forbidding any discussions of the political race.
- Allow the candidate to continue to broadcast in exchange for a negotiated amount of air time for the opponents
- Provide equal time to the opposing candidates equal to the amount of time that the host’s voice was heard on the air (if the opponents request it within 7 days of the host being on the air)
- Take the host off the air during the election
Other situations have also arisen concerning non-employees, running for office, who may work for another local station, for ad agencies, or for advertisers, but whose voice or picture appears on spots that run on a station.
In November, the FCC adopted an Order limiting to 10 the number of FM translators from the 2003 translator filing window that a single applicant could pursue. This Order was adopted by the Commission at the urging of LPFM advocates who believed that the large number of FM translator applications filed in 2003 foreclosed some opportunities for new low power FM stations (see our description of the Order here). Last week, the FCC released a Public Notice telling translator applicants to choose which 10 applications that they will continue to prosecute. Applicants have until April 3 to make that choice and notify the Commission of their choice. If no choice is made by that date, the FCC will continue to process the first 10 applications that were on file, dismissing any remaining applications by that applicant.
The Commission is expecting to then continue to process the remaining applications, opening a settlement window after the dismissal process is complete so that the remaining applicants can sort out possible engineering solutions or other settlements that would resolve conflicts between remaining mutually exclusive applications. However, there are a number of Petitions for Reconsideration that were filed against the Order establishing the 10 application limit (including one filed by our firm on behalf of a number of clients). We’ll see if the Commission takes any action on the Reconsideration petitions (and an accompanying Petition for Stay of the selection deadline) or if the Commission marches on and continues to process these applications. For now, applicants should be ready to make their selections on or before April 3.