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No Mercy From FCC for Athens State University’s LPFM Rejection

University said a student entered the wrong channel number on its application

The FCC has affirmed its ruling against an Alabama university that had its LPFM application dismissed, apparently due to the entry of the wrong FM channel number.

Athens State University in Athens, Ala., applied for a new LPFM station in the December 2023 window. On its application, in the text box for the FM channel number, the university entered channel 210, or 89.9 FM. That short-spaced the university to a host of existing stations, including adjacent channel Class C3 90.1 WJOU(FM) in Huntsville at just 17 miles. Accordingly, the commission dismissed the application.

The university petitioned the commission for reconsideration of its decision in February.

ASU said that, as a hands-on educational experience, it designated the filing of the application to its students. The university said one of the students entered channel 210 instead of the intended channel 250, or 97.9 FM. The FCC’s LPFM channel finder indicated that 97.9 would be available in Athens.

Currently, ASU runs a Part 15 low-power operation on its campus, on the 89.9 FM frequency.

The university pointed to similar applications in the past in which the commission allowed data to be corrected after filing. ASU said it is “not in alignment with the public interest” for the school to wait another decade for a filing opportunity due to a typographical error.

ASU’s response bore similarities to that of fellow Alabama LPFM hopeful Selma Weather and Information Forum, which filed an application for review with the commission earlier this month. The organization’s LPFM application was dismissed by the commission due to a coordinate entry error.

But the commission did not budge and it rejected ASU’s petition. Just like in the Media Bureau’s response to Selma, it cited the 2014 Diocese of Portland, Maine, case which established a precedent not to allow typographical data in the text box on electronic application to be corrected after application submission.

The cases ASU pointed to were before the Portland case and the commission said it was location data that was corrected, not an erroneous channel number.

The commission said, although it is “sympathetic” to ASU’s argument that the station would provide the first locally-original service for its community, it contended that “the loss of LPFM service to Athens, unfortunately, was caused by the petitioner’s mistake, not by an erroneous or harsh bureau approach” to the ASU application.

The commission concluded by treating the application as if it failed to meet minimum distance spacing requirements, and it said the university has “not persuaded us that deviation from our rules or unusual treatment is justified.”

ASU intended for the station to be associated with its educational curriculum as an extension of its existing Part 15 and streaming operation.

(Read the commission’s decision.)

[Related: “No LPFMs Granted for This Texas Mennonite Church Duo“]

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