FCC acts on noncommercial applications, announces window


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In March the commission resolved 76 mutually-exclusive groups of noncommercial educational FM (NCE-FM) proposals involving 200 applications, some of which have been pending for more than 10 years. At the same time, the agency announced a filing window for new and major-change NCE-FM applications will be opened in October.

Under the system, applications are first compared under “fair distribution” criteria developed under Section 307(b) of the Communications Act and, if 307(b) is not dispositive, the agency looks to comparative “points,” which are awarded on the basis of localism, media diversity and population coverage.

307(b) Factors

Section 307(b) of the Communications Act requires the commission provide for “a fair, efficient and equitable distribution” of broadcast spectrum among the various states and communities. A threshold decision under Section 307(b) occurs when only one application in a comparative group would provide a first or second NCE-FM service to at least 10 percent of the population (in the aggregate) within the proposed 60dBu contour, as long as the underserved population is at least 2,000 people. If only one applicant can do this, it wins on that basis alone. If two or more applicants meet the threshold Section 307(b) test, one of them can still win if it proposes a first NCE-FM service to at least 5,000 more people than any of the other applicants.

Point system

If Section 307(b) is not dispositive, the applicants in a comparative group are next compared under several categories, with points awarded as follows:

  • Three points go to any applicant that is locally based and has been local for at least two years. “Local” means that an applicant has a campus or headquarters or 75 percent of its board members living within 25 miles of the proposed community. Documentation of the basis of a “localism” claim is required.

  • Two points are awarded to any applicant proposing service that does not overlap contours with any other station (including translators) in which the applicant, an officer, director or board member has an interest. The applicant's governing documents (by-laws, constitution or equivalent) must also include a provision to maintain such diversity on a going-forward basis. Special procedures exist for state chartered institutions, such as colleges, that may have a wide-area mandate, but will operate a station in one particular community. And similar provision is made for certain statewide educational networks, which are entitled to two points if they have overlapping contours with other related stations (a situation that would otherwise make them ineligible for these two points).

  • One or two additional points are awarded for the best technical proposal — meaning proposed service to the largest population and area. Two points are available to an applicant proposing 60dBu service to an area and population at least 25 percent larger than the next best showing.

  • If there is a tie on the basis of points, the deciding factor is the number of other radio station authorizations and applications attributable to each applicant.

Window for New Applications

A window for filing new and major change NCE-FM applications on the NCE reserved channels (Channels 201-220) will be open during the period Oct. 12 through Oct. 19, 2007. There are about 180 NCE-FM applications already pending, which were filed before the 2000 freeze. Those applications will have to be resubmitted electronically during the window and will be considered new proposals for cut-off purposes.


Dateline

Aug. 1 is the deadline for radio stations in the following states to file their biennial ownership reports: California, North Carolina and South Carolina.

Aug. 1 also is the deadline for stations in North Carolina and South Carolina with 10 or more full-time employees to file their mid-term EEO reports on FCC Form 397.

Aug. 1 is the date radio stations in the following states must place their annual EEO reports in their public files: California, Illinois, North Carolina, South Carolina and Wisconsin.


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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