FCC clamps down on Longley-Rice


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In a decision that has drawn relatively little attention, the FCC imposed significant restrictions on the use of the Longley-Rice model for predicting 70dBu city-grade coverage for FM stations.

Longley-Rice is commonly used when the standard prediction method, using the FCC's F(50,50) curves referred to in Section 73.313(c) of the rules, shows a shortfall in city-grade coverage. In recent years, FM allotment rule makings, particularly those involving multiple communities, have been predicated on the petitioner's plan to choose a site as close as possible to a major population center based on the use of Longley-Rice. For this reason, the staff's decision has far- reaching implications for move-ins, drop-ins and changes in the community of license. The ruling will also restrict the ability of stations to reach larger communities through minor change applications that do not require a rule making. One-step upgrade applications are similarly affected.

To use the Longley-Rice prediction method, an applicant must show that the terrain being studied departs widely from the average terrain assumed for the F(50,50) propagation curves. In the past, the FCC had never defined the term “departs widely.” This permitted use of the technically liberal Longley-Rice method for demonstrating city coverage in almost any terrain environment.

In a decision issued Aug. 9, the Commission said that “departs widely” means terrain must vary by 20 meters or less, or 100 meters or more from the 50-meter “delta h” standard (the average value for terrain in the United States, according to the FCC) that is used in determining terrain roughness along a radial. In the case before the Commission, the “delta h” terrain roughness values ranged from 39.7 to 45.0 meters. This was insufficient to warrant use of the Longley-Rice alternate prediction method, the agency said, and the applicant was ordered to amend or face dismissal.

While finally setting a clear standard as to when the Longley-Rice contour prediction method will be acceptable, this decision is likely to be appealed given the disruption it will cause to the upgrade and move-in plans of many FM licensees.

Assignment and transfer standards

In August, the FCC decided to relax its contract disclosure requirements for Forms 314, 315 and 316 (assignments and transfer applications) to permit applicants to exclude from their applications contract attachments that are not material to the FCC's analysis of the transaction, such as equipment inventories, lists of station contracts, descriptions of station real estate and copies of FCC licenses. Important ancillary agreements such as LMAs, options, notes and security agreements must still be submitted, however.

While the FCC is drafting new instructions and certifications for FCC Forms 314, 315 and 316, the agency is giving buyers and sellers discretion in terms of what is relevant. Nevertheless, anything that is omitted from a sale contract must be described in an exhibit to the application and an explanation as to why it is not relevant must be provided.

Pending adoption of new forms:

  • Applicants who submit a complete and final copy of a sales contract, including all exhibits and attachments, may respond “yes” to the relevant certification question.

  • Applicants who choose to omit certain transaction documents that they believe are not material for Commission processing purposes must respond “no” to the relevant question on the FCC form. These applicants must also submit an exhibit describing each of the omitted documents, stating the specific reason for the omission and the basis for the determination that the omitted documentation is not material to the Commission's consideration of the application.

Political advertising disclosure

The Commission's political broadcasting rules require that stations supply candidates with all pertinent information about discount privileges available to commercial advertisers, including the lowest unit charges for the different classes of time sold by the station. This can be accomplished by providing the candidates with a written disclosure statement.


Martin is an attorney with Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, PLC., Arlington, VA. E-mail martin@fhhlaw.com.

Dateline:

On Oct. 10, radio stations must place in their public files quarterly lists of community issues and the programs broadcast in response during the quarter ending Sept. 30.




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