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Objections, Petitions Lead to New Radio Station CP in Florida

Big Bend Heritage Music Association is the tentative selectee for a new NCE FM station

Several applicants were vying for construction permits for new noncommercial educational (NCE) FM stations in different communities in Florida, labeled NCE MX Group 59A. Seven applications were filed during the November 2021 NCE FM filing window.

But, as often happens in cases like these, objections and petitions can change the final selectee chosen by the Federal Communication Commission. The system the Media Bureau uses to compare applications — a comparable fair distribution system that assigns points based on different factors — initially identified two applicants as the leading grantees: Elijah Radio and Central Baptist Church of Ocala Inc. After analyzing both applications under the point system, the bureau named Elijah as the tentative selectee.

But in August 2022, Central Baptist filed an informal objection against the Elijah application, arguing that Elijah should have been eliminated under a tie-breaker analysis conducted by the bureau. In that objection, Central Baptist said Elijah failed to notify the FCC in its application that it had recently received four other grants for new NCE FM stations as part of the 2021 filing window. After a review, the commission granted Central Baptist’s objection, rescinded the selection of Elijah and identified Central Baptist as the new tentative selectee of the group.

But more objections were to come. Another member of the group, Big Bend Heritage Music Association Inc., argued that Central Baptist is not entitled to a first NCE service preference — one of several factors used to determine a tentative selectee — because it failed to consider station WILA(FM) in Live Oak, Fla., an existing NCE station that operates on a permanently reserved channel outside the reserved band. Once WILA is taken into account, Big Bend said the Central Baptist application would not provide a first NCE service to at least 2,000 people and 10% of the population within its proposed service area, which is a key factor to consider. 

But Central Baptist disagreed and argued that FCC rules only require applicants to consider reserved channel NCE signals — not allotments reserved for NCE use outside the reserved band in first and second NCE service calculations. Since WILA operates outside of the reserved band, Central Baptist said it should not be included in its first NCE service calculation.

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But the bureau rejected Central Baptist’s argument that WILA should not be counted in its first and second NCE service calculations because the station operates on an allotment outside the reserved band. The rules state that an applicant that will provide the first or second reserved channel NCE aural signal is considered superior to a mutually exclusive applicant that does not propose such service. 

Specifically, an applicant must follow the instructions laid out in Form 2100 (Schedule 340) that specify that “applicants must consider all full-service FM reserved channel authorizations placing a 60 dBμ contour over areas that the applicant also proposes to cover with a 60 dBμ contour.” That means that only AM stations and/or FM stations that voluntarily operate with a noncommercial format on channels that are not specifically reserved for that purpose — and that piece of information is key — are not counted in determining first and second NCE service. WILA operates on Channel 261 in Live Oak, which is specifically reserved for NCE operation. And as a result, WILA should have been included in Central Baptist’s first NCE service fair distribution calculation. And since that should have been the case, Central Baptist would not provide a first NCE service to at least 2,000 and 10% of the population in the service area.

As a result, the bureau granted Big Bend’s petition, rescinded the tentative selection of Central Baptist’s application and conducted a new fair distribution analysis. As part of that analysis, the bureau found that Big Bend application was the tentative winner. Big Bend’s Cross City, Fla., application (which is separate from its Perry, Fla., application) will provide the first NCE service to 2,131 people — which is 17% of the population.

Although other applications claim to provide new first NCE service to a potentially larger community, the bureau dismissed the other mutually exclusive applications and tentatively awarded a construction permit for the new NCE FM station in Cross City to Big Bend.

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