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

With the filing window for new noncommercial FM radio stations opening this coming week (see our summary of the process, here), some potential applicants may be wondering who qualifies as an established local organization entitled to points in the comparative analysis that takes place if applications that are mutually exclusive (both cannot be granted without creating prohibited interference) are filed during the window.  In a decision released this past week, the FCC clarified the rules as to what constitutes a local applicant – holding that simply having a mailing address for a headquarters in the proposed station’s service area is not sufficient.

In this case, an applicant claimed to have an established local presence necessary to qualify for points as a local applicant based on its "headquarters" which it said had been located within 25 miles of the proposed city of license for two years prior to the relevant date for evaluating the applicant’s comparative attributes, as required by the FCC’s rules.  However, when a competing applicant visited the office building in which this supposed headquarters was located, there was no indication in the building directory or on any signs on any door in the building that the organization was located there, and no building personnel had any familiarity with the organization.  The applicant justified its claimed local credit by claiming that the "headquarters" was an office at the specified location that housed a number of businesses and organizations with which one of its Board members was affiliated, and that all of those businesses could not be listed on signage or on the building directory.  The Commission found that the mere presence of an office was insufficient to qualify for credit, citing the Order adopting the NCE point system which said that the headquarters must be the organization’s principal place of business or the principal residence of one of its members, and not just a post office box, lawyer’s office, branch office or vacation home.  To qualify for points as an established local organization, the applicant must have activities and familiarity with the local service area that will permit it to "hit the ground running" in serving the public.

Continue Reading Who is a Local Applicant for an NCE Station?

In a very unusual process – one that is probably unprecedented – the FCC last week announced that it is opening a window for parties to file applications for a new AM station to serve Rockland County, New York.  AM stations are traditionally made available for filing on an on-demand basis – when the FCC accepts applications for new stations, parties can file in any location in the country, specifying any city of license that they select, as long as the station that they propose will not create interference to existing stations.  This is unlike FM and TV, where there is a two step process – new channels are first allotted at specific locations based on a party’s request, but that party gets no rights to the channel.  Instead, after the allotment has been made, anyone can file for in a specified window seeking a construction permit to build the new station.  In this window, the FCC has adopted a unique process for an AM stations, a process much more like that used in FM and TV.  The Commission had been asked by a party for permission to operate a new station in Rockland County.  Instead of simply permitting that party to build a station without competition, the FCC decided that a new station was necessary to provide emergency information about the nuclear power plant in the Rockland area, but determined that anyone could file for that channel.  Applications for the channel (1700 AM – on the expanded band, for which there have been no applications for almost 10 years since the first set of expressions of interest were taken), will be accepted from October 1 through October 5.

In order to give parties the ability to prepare applications, the FCC is imposing a freeze on the filing of minor change applications for AM stations throughout the country during the filing window.  Any minor change application that is filed during the window will be returned.  So if you are planning an application for a technical change to your AM station, you need to plan to avoid that filing window.

Continue Reading AM Filing Freeze While FCC Accepts Applications for a New AM in Rockland County, New York

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

Last week’s announcement of the partnership between eBay and Bid4Spots and the impending full launch of Google’s service to sell online radio spots beg for FCC action to clarify how these services will be treated for lowest unit rate purposes. We have written about this issue before (see our note here), and the increasing number of online sales tools for broadcast advertising inventory highlights the issue. If advertisers can buy spots using these online systems on a single station, or if stations offer their spots to a particular advertiser at a set price for a specific class of spot, it would seem that these spots could have an effect on the station’s lowest unit rate if the spots sold through the online systems run during lowest unit rate periods (45 days before a primary or 60 days before a general election.). For the peace of mind for all broadcasters, it would be worth the FCC clarifying the status of these services as we hurtle toward what will probably be the busiest political year ever.

In looking at some of these systems, it appears that some of these systems are premised on specific stations offering spots to advertisers on a cost-per-point basis, for specific dayparts as designated by the advertiser and agreed to by the station.  For instance Bid4Spots system advertises that it holds an auction to sell the spots on Thursday for the following week.  And it appears that spots must be sold by a station in specific dayparts on a non-preemeptible basis. For the week in which the spots are offered, the sale of such spots would appear to set a lowest unit rate for non-preemptible spots that run in the same time period. 

Continue Reading Will On-Line Spot Auctions Have an Impact on Lowest Unit Rate? – Only the FCC Knows For Sure