FCC outlines plans for LPFM MX handling. Western USA will be up first.
On Thursday at the annual National Federation of Community Broadcasters conference in Reston, VA, an LPFM workshop was hosted by communications attorney Michael Couzens and featured guests from the FCC including Audio Division Chief Peter Doyle, Assistant Chief James Bradshaw and Staff Attorney Parul Desai.
On singleton handling, Desai has stated that many of the informal objections and petitions to deny are questioning whether applicants are truly non-profit and whether they are actually local. Many of these Petitions have been denied (thus granting the application). While the Commission has been working fast on addressing these types of objections, those petitions that address complicated issues will take more time, Desai stated. Peter Doyle has stated on singleton handling, the FCC staff has done more in the first 4 months of this window than they did in the first 4 years of the previous LPFM window, 14 years ago. During the last window, application processing was "interrupted" by Congress passing the Radio Broadcast Protection Act resulting in the invalidation of hundreds of applications that were third-adjacent channel short spaced. Doyle states that it is the Audio Division's goal to "get initial licensing decisions in calendar year 2014. It will take resources where I am not sure where they will come from."
On the 249 applications that were assisted by Antonio Cesar Guel of Hispanic Christian Community Network, the FCC recently dismissed 14 applications after findings of major board changesor lack of site assurance on the applications subject to the February FCC letter of inquiry. On the remaining applications, which includes 114 singletons, Desai states that the investigation is ongoing.
On the upcoming public notices to resolve the remaining mutually exclusive (MX) applications, the FCC is currently calculating the scores for each application. The process includes reviewing the information on the individual applications and making adjustments to the score if necessary. Once the Audio Division staff makes their determinations of the score for each applicant, these results must be circulated through the full Commission prior to release of the public notice. REC notes that the scores that are shown on the REC MX tool are based solely on claims made on the initial application through the checkboxes and does not reflect any changes made on amendments. REC did not cross-check the claims with the claims made in the attachments. REC intends to manually adjust the scores in the database based on the FCC's official findings on the applicants actual score.
Desai states that the FCC will "soon" release the first MX public notice (PN). The first PN will include about 260 applicants. These applicants will be in the western United States which will be mainly all states west of the Mississippi River with the exception of Texas. Once this PN is released, the FCC will split the remainder of the country into two groups based on the distribution of the applications taking into consideration the geographic separations between groups. FCC Staff could not elaborate at this time what geographic areas the second group would include.
Peter Doyle has stated on the day that the Public Notice is released, the 90-day clock for amendments and settlement agreements will start the business day following the release. Amendments will be treated on a "first come first served" basis however, applications received at the FCC on the same day will receive equal treatment. This remains an issue for applicants in larger MX groups who are wishing to "bail out" to a different channel who may file on "rush day" in order to assure themselves the channel. Doyle stated that while the FCC does not have an official published policy for handling multiple amendments received during the same business day, a decision in a full power NCE proceeding addressing a similar issue is forthcoming "in 7 to 10 days".
During the 90-day period, it is expected that the first 30-days of that period will be the period where Informal Objections and Petitions to Deny will be entertained. Doyle has stated that if a Petition to Deny or Informal Objection is granted and results in an adjustment of points, that score adjustment must be approved by the full Commission thus these will take more time.
REC recommends that applicants in all states west of the Mississippi with the exception of Texas should move forward on their plans and start "staging" their applications in the CDBS system to get ready for "rush day". Applicants who have already staged their applications or have made decisions on their move during the window are reminded to periodically review their station in myLPFM to assure that no full-power or translator application activity that has taken place that prevents the LPFM from making the change proposed.
The FCC has confirmed that during the PN settlement window, applicants will be able to move their proposed stations more than 5.6 km (3.5 miles) from their original location as long as the localism guidelines continue to be met. This is a departure from how moves were handled in the settlement period during the previous LPFM filing windows.
RECnexus can provide full service assistance for Rush Day amendments and assistance in partial and universal MX settlement agreements. Call 1-844-REC-NEXUS.