FCC Seeks Noncommercial FM Application Limit In New Window


The Commission in September adopted changes to its rules and procedures for considering
competing applications for new noncommercial educational (NCE) FM radio stations.

It was the successful result of the Media Bureau’s introduction of a report and order titled “Reexamination of the Comparative Standards and Procedures for Licensing Noncommercial Educational Broadcast Stations and Low Power FM Stations.”

As such, the Commission is directing the Media Bureau to open a filing window for FM reserved band (Channels 201-220) applications for NCE FM new station applications.

It’s a 2021 window, with dates forthcoming. But other pertinent information is now known.

Only applications for new NCE FM stations may be filed in the upcoming filing window.

The Bureau will not accept applications proposing major modifications to existing NCE FM stations.

Further, an applicant seeking a major modification to an existing NCE FM station authorization may apply for a new station and, subsequent to commencement of operations with its newly authorized facilities, surrender its old station license.

In the initial rulemaking proceeding on comparative standards for NCE applicants, MB Docket No. 19-3, the Commission reserved the right to establish by public notice a limit on the number of NCE applications filed by a party in a filing window. “This application limit helped restrict the number of mutually exclusive applications (including ‘daisy chains’ of mutually exclusive applications), and as such minimized the delay caused by processing “complicated application chains.”

As the FCC sees it, “The ten application cap allowed the Commission to expeditiously process and grant thousands of applications to a wide range of local and diverse applicants.”

And, given the success of the October 2007 window, the FCC tentatively concluded that a 10-application limit, as seen then, would “deter speculative filings, permit the expeditious processing of the applications filed in the window, and provide interested parties with a meaningful opportunity to file for and obtain new NCE FM station licenses.”

In contrast, the Commission added, “we tentatively conclude that the failure to establish a limit on the number of new NCE FM applications that a party may file in the window could lead to a large number of speculative filings, creating the potential for extraordinary procedural delays.”

What does the FCC envision?

“We expect there will be a large volume of NCE FM applications filed in the forthcoming window that will require establishing an application cap before the window opens,” it notes.

There are several factors that could contribute to a large volume of NCE FM
applications in the forthcoming window.

Among them:

  • there is no application filing fee
  • there are no ownership limits in the reserved band
  • there has not been a filing window for new NCE FM applications for over
    ten years
  • the Commission recently simplified and clarified its rules and procedures for filing
    applications for new NCE applications and considering competing applications

Is this good, or do you and your company have something to say about it?

The FCC wants to hear from you.

All filings must be submitted in MB Docket No. 20-343. Comments may be filed using the Commission’s Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS).

Comment Date: (15 days after date of publication in the Federal Register)
Reply Comment Date: (25 days after date of publication in the Federal Register)