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FCC Rescinds CP for New NCE FM in Texas, at Least for Now

East Texas Community Broadcasting says FCC erred in awarding permit to First Dallas Media

The FCC Media Bureau has rescinded a construction permit it had issued to First Dallas Media for a new FM NCE station in Golinda, Texas.

This is a win, at least a temporary one, for a competing entity, East Texas Community Broadcasting, which wants to build a station in Riesel, Texas. But the end of this tale isn’t in view yet.

The two organizations were originally part of a group of eight mutually exclusive applications in the 2021 NCE filing window.

The bureau had identified First Dallas Media as the tentative selectee after going through its steps for deciding such situations. It conducted a fair distribution analysis that determined that the two were eligible for a fair distribution preference based on second NCE service population totals. The First Dallas Media proposal apparently would provide a new second service to more than 14,000 people, or at least 5,000 more than East Texas Community; so it got the initial nod for a CP in Golinda. And after no petitions to deny were filed within the 30-day window, the bureau granted the application to First Dallas.

But East Texas Community Broadcasting then petitioned the commission to reconsider. It said First Dallas actually would only provide new NCE service to about 1,700 people, thus the latter didn’t merit a fair distribution preference. It said it hadn’t been aware of the error earlier, which is why it didn’t object sooner.

First Dallas replied that the application had been pending for 13 months; that East Texas Community could have raised its arguments at any point; and that FCC precedent doesn’t allow an objection in these circumstances. It didn’t directly address the accuracy of the population claim, saying the engineer who prepared its exhibit was not available to explain the calculations.

East Texas Community replied that First Dallas hadn’t challenged its basic assertion; it said First Dallas would not be able to construct a facility that complies with its permit and that the public interest would be served by giving the CP to East Texas Community instead.

Now the Media Bureau has decided to pull back the First Dallas CP, at least for now.

It says that if the population number quoted by East Texas Community is correct, it would be “a clear downgrade” of the First Dallas application. The bureau also said it has independently determined that the First Dallas population claims are “overstated.” (But it rejected East Texas Community’s argument that First Dallas had made a misrepresentation; the FCC said there was no evidence that this wasn’t just an engineering error.)

The upshot is that the FCC has instructed First Dallas Media to amend its application to correct its fair distribution population figures. The commission also reinstated the East Texas Community application for the time being. After a 15-day waiting period, during which East Texas could also make corrections to typographical errors in its own application, the Media Bureau plans to review the case again.

To be continued …