The Free Ride Should Be Over for Dual Expanded-Band AMs
The author is owner of WGTO(AM) and
W266BS in Cassopolis, Mich. His commentaries are a regular feature at
radioworld.com. Here he comments on this week's story “Expanded-Band Owner Objects to AM
I have been dealing with the
FCC for more than a quarter century, and one thing my late FCC attorney Lauren
Colby taught me well: Be straight with the FCC, lack of candor will sink you
Well, we as broadcasters must expect the
same from the FCC. When they say something, we should believe it to be truthful
and we expect them to stay true and enforce their orders.
The FCC was as clear as spring water on the expanded-band issue.
Only those stations that THEY scored as the worst interferers
could apply to move into the new band. Following that, the FCC would entertain
other plans to populate the band.
“other” plans never came to light and some of the original permit holders have
made out like bandits for two decades. The FCC lists 25 that still hold both their old and new licenses.
The FCC order of
1997 was very clear: If granted a permit owners could under NO circumstances
operate both the new and the old station for more than five years. No ifs ands
or buts. It was PLAIN AND CLEAR!
[See a 1997 FCC “AM
Expanded Band Fact Sheet”]
Some of the owners followed the rules and chose the new
station or the old station after five years, and turned in one license. Now I
bet they feel like suckers.
Some owners who have held
on to both stations have used creative arguments. Keeping both stations was in
the public interest as some companies tried to justify selling the old or new
station to a minority group. Some of the arguments are very persuasive but do
not conform to the original 1997 order, and the FCC did not buy those arguments
in most cases.
Some of the nation’s larger broadcast
companies have been involved in some of these attempts to wheel and deal on the
expanded band and yes some new and welcomed service has been provided to
targeted audiences as a result. But the same thing could have been done by
opening the expanded band to new applicants along with moving so-called high-interfering
The FCC messed this up from the beginning. Why
did they allow the expanded-band station to be run as a separate
program entity? They could have put real teeth in the order by forcing
both stations to simulcast their programming for the full five years. By
forcing simulcast like they do with translators, the FCC would have prevented
the operators from in effect running two different stations and setting up a
situation where it would always be economically difficult to give one up. The
FCC should also have made cancellation of the standard-band station automatic
after five years unless the owner petitioned to cancel the expanded-band
So while lawyers will make money
writing arguments to allow owners to keep both stations on air or sell one, the
truth of the matter is simple, the FCC lacked candor in dealing with the band
and those who could or would move into it.
The only way
the FCC can deal with this now is to turn the clock back and set a short
deadline using the original language. Surrender one or the other.
It’s a tough move but the owners were warned and the free ride
should be over. Once that is done the FCC can as originally promised
look to fair and equitable ways of adding a limited number
of new stations based on an application window.
Expanded-Band Sunset Rule Appealed (2006)
A Closer Look: The AM Band Revitalization Order (2015)
A Tale of Three Expanded-Band Stations
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