It has been over two years since the last window allowing applicants to file for new FM stations (see our article here). There had been some speculation that the number of requests for new allotments was decreasing, leaving the FCC with few FM channels to auction off and thereby breaking what had been an almost yearly start of a new FCC auction for new FM channels. But, yesterday, the FCC released an Order noting numerous vacant FM channels, though this time they are not newly allotted channels, but instead ones that had previously been awarded to applicants who either did not pay the amount they bid in the auction, or who received a CP and then did not construct the station. Even included on this list is the FM channel of the station that had its license designated for hearing as the station had been silent for almost its entire renewal term (see our article here), a hearing that never had to happen as the licensee surrendered its license rather than trying to litigate over whether its renewal should be granted.
Of course, many of these channels may have some inherent issues leading those who initially sought them not to construct. The issues could be location specific (e.g. no readily available transmitter sites for a price that made construction feasible) or there could be issues with the applicant not being able to fulfill its initial plans. Interested parties should do their investigation. When will the channels be available?
It remains to be seen when the FCC will open a new window. Usually, they give several months prior notice of an upcoming auction. Now that the TV incentive auction has been completed, that may free up some FCC resources to devote to new auctions for broadcast services. And note that these are not the only channels that will be available, as the FCC has from time to time allotted new FM channels that have never previously been available for auction. These channels are sitting, waiting for the next FM auction window before applicants can file to acquire the rights to build a new station. While the volume of new FM channel requests is not as great as it has been in the past, some channels have been allotted, so there will be additional opportunities. These all provide something to plan for if you are interested in a new FM channel for your future.