More on AM and FM allocation rule changes


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In November the FCC adopted rules to change the way in which it authorizes changes to the community of license of AM and FM stations. FCC Update covered the major elements of the new rules in the January issue of Radio magazine. Here are some clarifications of the matters previously covered as well as some new insights into the FCC's order.

First, as previously reported, the commission will permit the submission of minor modification applications by AM and FM licensees (commercial and noncommercial alike) seeking to change their community of license as long as the proposed daytime facilities are mutually exclusive with the station's presently authorized daytime facilities. Such applications can be filed once the rules have become effective. The effective date of the new rules is Jan. 19, 2007.

Making the change

When a minor change application proposes a change in community of license, the applicant must provide a detailed exhibit demonstrating that the change in the community of license will result in a preferential arrangement of allotments, and that there will be a “net service benefit” under the commission's well-established policies on allotment priorities. The commission is planning to issue a new Form 301 that will provide a format for submitting such information, but a new Form 340 for noncommercial applicants will not be adopted until later.

The applicant will need to demonstrate that the proposed city is a community for allotment purposes. A demonstration of “community-ness” typically includes showing that the community is recognized in the U.S. Census (even if only as a “census-designated place”), that it has its own government, post office, public services and that it includes businesses and other institutions usually found in communities.

Further, the commission is still insisting that a proposed change in community of license cannot result in the removal of a community's sole operating local service unless the proponent can demonstrate a compelling public interest benefit for such a move.

On the AM side

Any AM licensee that received its license through the comparative process in an auction window will have to include, in any change of community of license application, a showing that the city it is moving to would have also been the dispositive choice among the mutually exclusive parties.

Finally, the commission will require that notice of any requested change in community of license first be published in the Federal Register. The Media Bureau will then be prohibited from processing the application for at least 60 days thereafter.

In light of these changes, the commission deleted the FM Table of Allotments from the rules, and, instead, will maintain a list of vacant allotments on its website. Parties will still be required to file petitions for rulemaking to propose new drop-in allotments, but all other technical parameters will be maintained in the commission's Consolidated Data Base Search system. The commission will also now permit petitions to be filed through its electronic filing system.

A flood of minor modification applications was expected on Jan. 19, the effective date of the new rules. A number of those applications will conflict with simultaneously filed proposals. But the commission previously has decided that mutual exclusivity among minor change applications are not to be resolved through auctions, but will instead be resolved through voluntary technical amendments. Should a large number of unresolved conflicts occur, the reconsideration process (leading to possible auctions) may be used to change the rules so as to permit resolution of such conflicts.


Dateline

Radio stations in Texas must file their biennial ownership reports on or before April 2, 2007.

Also on April 2, radio stations in Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas must place their 2007 EEE reports in their public files and place them on their websites.

All radio stations must place their first quarter issues and programs lists in their public files by April 10.


Martin is a past president of the Federal Communications Bar Association and a member of Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, Arlington, VA. E-mail martin@fhhlaw.com.




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