Radio renewal cycle approaches


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Believe it or not, the license renewal cycle for radio stations is about to begin. The first group of licenses are scheduled to expire in about a year, on Oct. 1, 2003. Renewal-related activities are scheduled to begin six months earlier, with the required pre-filing announcements starting on April 1, 2003, and renewal applications due on June 1, 2003, for stations in DC, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. The cycle will then proceed through groups of states and territories at two-month intervals.

As before, the timing of announcements, renewal applications and license expirations is based entirely on the state in which a station is licensed.

The renewal applications will then be due two months later, or four months prior to license expiration. Interested parties will be able to file petitions to deny the renewal application up to one month prior to the license expiration. Unlike prior renewal cycles, however, there will be no opportunity for other parties to file competing applications.

It is likely that questions regarding a station's public inspection file and potential RF radiation hazards, will remain on the renewal application form. It is also likely that by the time renewal applications are due, some form of Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) rules may once again be in place.

To prepare for the renewal process, stations should review their local public inspection files to make sure that everything is in order. In particular, stations should make sure that copies of quarterly issues and program lists for each quarter since the beginning of the current license term, are properly prepared and in the public file, along with copies of station licenses, contour maps, applications and ownership reports. To avoid RF radiation issues, stations should make sure that any required fences are in place, in good condition and at a safe distance from the base of the tower. Fencing problems have become a hot item for FCC inspectors, along with the posting of antenna structure registration numbers. Because the Commission has now allocated more money for inspections, address these matters soon.

LPFM third-adjacencies studied

Congressionally mandated field tests are moving forward to determine whether third-adjacent LPFM stations would cause interference to existing full-power FM stations.

When the FCC created the LPFM service, it declined to include third-adjacent protection requirements. In 2000, after broadcasters raised concerns that LPFM stations would cause interference to full-power FM stations, Congress ordered the FCC to modify its rules to include LPFM third-adjacent channel distance separation requirements. The FCC complied and the new protections resulted in a diminution in the number of LPFM applications granted by the FCC.

As part of the compromise between broadcasters and the FCC, Congress ordered the FCC to conduct experimental field tests to determine whether LPFM stations not subject to third-adjacent minimum distance separation requirements would cause interference to full-power FM stations and FM translator stations. Congress ordered the field tests in as many as nine FM radio markets, including urban, suburban and rural markets.

The FCC is required to release a report on the tests once they have been completed. The report will include the FCC's recommendations to Congress on reducing or eliminating LPFM third-adjacent minimum distance separations.

Meanwhile, the FCC is moving forward to finish processing the remaining pending LPFM applications. As part of this effort, it permitted major amendments (including the specification of a new channel) to those applications that do not propose protection to third-adjacent FM stations because they were filed before the FCC modified its rules to require third-adjacent protection.

In addition, the FCC has issued a list of the LPFM applications in Alabama, Arkansas, Guam, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Montana and a few in other states that it has found acceptable. Petitions to deny the applications were due Oct. 7, 2002. Those that were unopposed could be approved by year's end.


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


Dateline:

There are no FCC filing deadlines in November or December. However, in 2003 the Commission will again require stations to file biennial ownership reports and, as noted above, the renewal application cycle will begin anew.




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