It is not unusual at all for a broadcast licensee to stay on the same channel but move from one city of license to another – in fact, sometimes it doesn’t even involve a change in transmitter location. But the proposal from PMCM TV was far more creative than most – the company proposed to move two TV allocations almost from one end of the continent to the other. However, the FCC didn’t buy it before and isn’t willing to reconsider.
The backstory is that for years, the FCC and certain affected legislators have been trying to get commercial VHF television service in New Jersey and Delaware, both states having been shut out due to their proximity to many large Eastern media markets.
To make a long story short, PMCM proposed to move Channel 2 KJWY-TV in Jackson WY to Middletown Township NJ, and Channel 3 KNVN-TV Ely NV to Wilmington DE.
The FCC acknowledged that it could see PMCM’s thinking in coming to an interpretation of the rules that it thought would justify the move.
However, the FCC said that its more narrow interpretation is that such moves are limited to locations that would be mutually exclusive to one another, and said that its interpretation is supported by “text, purpose, structure, and legislative history…”
The matter has been settled by the allotment of Channel 4 to Atlantic City NJ and Channel 5 to Seaford DE. Both have been matched up with licensees.
PMCM had been relying on “Congressional intent” to “make possiblt the relocation of a VHF station to one of the unserved states – no matter what it took or where the relocated station came from,” and said the FCC had no discretion to get in the way of its plan to do just that.
The FCC said that taking context into account, the Congressional directive actually meant that the FCC was to try to get a VHF station into each and every state in the union by normal allocation procedure.
As for Congressional intent, according to FCC the removal of impediments was intended to allow an existing licensee to move a station into either state without being subjected to competing applications for the new allocation. The end result of the legislation was the move of WOR-TV from New York to New Jersey.
The FCC went much further in its objection to the PMCM plan, saying it could produce the “absurd” result of depriving one community of service while bringing new interference to existing stations elsewhere. FCC wrote, “Under PMCM’s construction of Section 331(a), any licensee that wished to obtain a commercial VHF channel in a state without one could simply notify the Commission of its willingness to abandon service in its current community of license and commence service in any community of its choosing in the unserved state. Even if the Commission could allocate new channels to the unserved state in a technically feasible manner using normal allocation procedures, under PMCM’s interpretation, it would be required to bypass these procedures and reallocate the channel in question to the licensee’s chosen community without regard to whether the new service would cause interference to broadcast stations serving the same area, whether the location and frequency selected would minimize any technical deficiencies associated with post-transition VHF service, whether other communities in the unserved state would have a greater need for new service than the community chosen by the licensee, or whether the newly served community has a greater need for the channel than the formerly served community.”
FCC concluded that it PMCM wanted to operate in the VHF band in New Jersey and/or Delaware, it should have joined the proceeding under which the Atlantic City and Seaford stations were allocated.