FCC approves moves within Columbus OH market


Broadcast TowerThe recent approval of a city of license change by the FCC over the objections of another broadcaster illuminates the FCC’s new rural radio policy, and shows how the entire city of license concept has been devalued under current review procedure.

North American Broadcasting Company set the wheels in motion when it sought permission to move WMNI-FM Westerville OH to Worthington OH. Since that move would leave Westerville without a radio station licensed to it, as a backfill NABC also applied to move WMNI-AM from Columbus OH to Westerville, if necessary.

An objection came from Franklin Communications, which among other things claimed that NABC was attempting to “game” the system in order to move its FM station closer to Columbus proper.

According to the FCC’s recently released information on city of license changes, it would not have permitted the WMNI-FM move had it been licensed to a rural area.

However, that is not the case. It is within the Columbus urbanized area. The proposed move to Worthington would bring it within earshot of nearly 261K citizens, and therefore constitutes a “preferential arrangement of allotments.” No rural citizens are left behind.

Additionally, since Westerville is part of Columbus, it is already served by Columbus stations, including WMNI-AM. Therefore, there is no need for the AM station to move there as a backfill allotment.

Sop the Franklin objection was denied, the move of WMNI-FM from Westerville to Worthington was approved, and the move of WMNI-AM from Columbus to Westerville was dismissed as moot.

RBR-TVBR observation: There is another factor that is touched upon here, and it is that one person’s upgrade proposal to enhance the ability of a station to complete, is another person’s unwanted competitor. We’ve seen objections to the FCC’s new rural policy, since it certainly restricts the ability of stations to move where the people are at the expense of those living in smaller communities.

However, the flip side is that it also prevents another hungry mouth from entering a media market that may already seem over-radioed to those already there, making it that much harder for every licensee to survive.

The bottom line is that there is leeway for upgrades, as long as the stations implicated are already considered to be a part of the targeted market to begin with. Of course, it is still possible to move a rural station into an urbanized area, but the FCC has placed many hurdles in the way.