MYTH: Adding “letters of support” to a filing window application will improve the application’s chances of a grant.
There has been a common misunderstanding that including letters of support or making an application look more “impressive” will help staff decide which application should be granted a construction permit in the event of mutual exclusivity.
For many decades in radio history, mutual exclusivity was handled through various methods including written hearings where candidates for a particular construction permit had to provide a lot of information about the applicant, their financial backing and how the plan to use the station. The Commission would then determine which applicant was the strongest based on subjective criteria.
In the 1990s, the case Bechtel v. FCC went through the DC Circuit Court. In that case, it was determined that the FCC’s comparative review method used for mutually exclusive applications was unconstitutional and FCC processing of mutually exclusive applications was frozen.
For commercial applications, legislation passed in Congress required the FCC to use auctions to settle mutual exclusivity.
For noncommercial applications, the FCC constructed a metrics-based system that utilizes preference for stations proposing to provide first or second educational services in any area with at least 2,000 population (and at least 10% of the station’s service contour) and a point system based on factors such as local community presence and technical superiority with tie breakers based on the number of authorizations and pending applications the organization has.
With the creation of LPFM, the FCC used a scaled down version of the non-commercial method using strictly a point system and using the age of the organization in the local community as the tiebreaker.
Since comparative reviews in LPFM are based strictly on points, specific “letters of support” will not influence a decision. While those letters have no influence, applicants are reminded to provide supporting documentation to their application if they claim the Established Local Presence point.
FACT: “Letters of support” from elected officials or other members of the general public will have no impact on the outcome of a group of mutually exclusive LPFM applications.