We wrote last week about the FCC’s determination of which applicants are to be preferred in several groups of mutually exclusive applications for new Low Power FM stations. We warned full-power FM broadcasters to review the preferred applicants as broadcasters have 30 days from last week’s public notice to file petitions to deny against such LPFM applications citing interference concerns or other issues with those applications. Now, a number of additional LPFM applications have been found by the FCC to be ready for grant, and broadcasters need to review these applications – and be prepared to review a steady stream of these applications, all with different petition to deny deadlines, over the next few months. Where did these applications come from?
In the rules for the LPFM window, the FCC decided that once it made determinations about tentative winners in mutually exclusive groups of applications, all LPFM applicants not selected (or those in ties) could file amendments to their applications seeking new channels – including major changes specifying brand new channels at different sites having no relation to the original application but for meeting the general requirements that the controlling parties in these applicants be local to the service area that they propose to serve. As these amendments are processed on a first-come, first-serve basis, many LPFM applicants were apparently ready to go with amendments as soon as the list of tentative winners was released. And these amendments have started to come out on public notices, announcing 30 day petition to deny deadlines (see, for instance, this list of Broadcast Applications released yesterday by the FCC, at pages 8-11).
So these amended applications, on new channels, are the ones that the FCC is now considering. Where the amendments are on channels where they don’t cause apparent interference to full-power stations, existing translators or other LPFM stations or applications, the FCC is right away putting these applications on a public notice as being accepted for filing, which starts a 30 day clock for petitions to deny. If no petitions are filed, and no other issues are discovered by the FCC itself, they will be presumably be granted by the FCC. As some of these amended applications include second-adjacent channel interference waivers, they must protect any full power station from actual interference. So FM operators need to review these applications to see if any of these amendments would cause interference to their operations. Other LPFM applicants would also use this same window to file any objections to newly amended applications that could cause interference to their operations or which would otherwise be problematic under FCC rules.
As we wrote last week, these amendments can be filed to pending LPFM applications for the next 90 days. So broadcasters need to be vigilant in monitoring the FCC public notices for notices of acceptance of amended LPFM applications to see if any of these amended applications could affect your operations.
It is also interesting to note that this ability to file major change amendments to resolve mutual exclusive situations has not been a routine part of the processing of other applications for broadcast services. As the FCC continues to process its proposals for AM improvements, including the potential for a window for the filing of applications for new FM translators for AM stations, it would seem as if this right to amend mutually exclusive applications to resolve interference issues would be a welcome way to help assure that many more AM stations can take part in the FCC’s proposals to expand and preserve the service that they provide. Let’s hope that the FCC adopts this kind of procedure in its window for AM translators.