FCC defends policies to promote rural radio


FCCThe 2009 Second Report and Order on the promotion of rural radio drew, largely by taking population served out consideration when reviewing applications, has drawn opposition and requests for clarification. The FCC has responded.

It starts off by noting that many of the oppositions it has received simply repeat earlier arguments against the policy and summarily dismissed the lot of them.

The idea was to make sure rural areas are not deprived of service by taking into account the number of potential listeners when reviewing mutually exclusive applications. That policy almost invariably rewards applicants seeking to enter into urbanized areas.

Similarly, the FCC now frowns on attempts to move an existing station from a rural to an urbanized area.

If such a request is initially turned down by the FCC, it can be “…rebutted by a compelling showing (1) that the specified community is truly independent of the urbanized area, (2) that the community has a specific need for an outlet for local expression separate from the urbanized area and (3) that the proposed station is able to provide that outlet.”

Educational Media Foundation and Kent Frandsen Radio Companies argued that the FCC’s position ignores market realities, and forces the construction of stations in areas without the necessary elements in place to make them financially viable.

The FCC countered that if that is the case, then presumably nobody would apply to build a station in such a location in the first place. That would mean a proposal for a given allotment that would serve an urbanized area would face no such competition from a rural proposal.
In the case of a rural station seeking to move out of an area that can no longer support it, the FCC said the licensee may make a showing under the rebuttal system to that effect.

The FCC also rejected a contention by a group led by Radio One that it is possible for a station to be within an urbanized area and still focus its service on a particular suburb. The FCC said it set up the new structure not to devine applicant intent on whether it was going to serve a full market or just a small part of a market, but rather to eliminate the “dispositive advantage” any proposal aimed at an urbanized area, for whatever reason, has over a rural proposal. Again, the standards only apply in the case of mutually exclusive proposals.

Another commenter labeled the Clay Petition said the FCC’s rules don’t go far enough – even in a rural environment, a station’s community of license is no guarantee that the licensee will specifically serve that community and not some other community in the general area, and suggested that licensees must use the community or communities they actually intend to serve as the community of license. The FCC rejected the proposal as “overbroad,” noting that it takes the decision on COL away from the applicant and puts it in the hands of the FCC, and says that while it generally agrees with Clay in principle, it believes that the rules are structured to achieve Clay’s goal as they stand.