Radio Relocation Gets ‘a Boatload Harder’

Paul McLane is U.S. editor in chief.

“If you’re looking to move an AM or FM radio station from a small community to a different, bigger, community, your job probably just got a boatload harder.”

That’s the analysis of communications lawyer Matt McCormick of a recent FCC decision in the commission's “rural radio” proceeding.

Writing on the blog of law firm Fletcher Heald & Hildreth, McCormick says the decision “tightens up radio channel allotment standards considerably,” raising barriers that limit the influx of channels to metropolitan areas. He said the FCC also made it harder for FM translators to “pop in or out” of the reserved portion of the FM band.

“Concerned that the continuing trend of stations toward metro areas may be leaving the radio needs of rural areas underserved, the FCC has now come up with a new approach designed to slow (if not stop altogether) that trend,” he explains in an excellent summary of the implications of the decision.

The FCC order says that in certain circumstances, a proposal to place a radio station in a community of license near a bigger city will be treated as though it is proposing service to the entire urbanized area. This would have the effect of not giving some applicants a “priority preference” for local service, which some people think owners have misused in trying to get signals into lucrative larger markets.

The commission also tweaked another “priority” to put more emphasis on coverage of relatively underserved areas “rather than raw differences in the number of people covered.”

These changes affect various common allotment situations such as proposed community of license changes; applications for new AM stations and major mods to existing AM stations; and new FM allotment proposals.

McCormick’s summary of the Second Report & Order is well worth a read if you or your business are involved in such strategies.

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