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Changes Coming to FCC

Also, might Obama favor shorter license terms for broadcasters?

Now that the election is over we can anticipate changes at the FCC, not only because there will be a new chairman and at least one new commissioner, but because we can also expect change in the way issues will be vetted and their eventual outcome with a Democratic majority.

For example, the commission’s broadcast localism proposals, if adopted, might look much different — read “more stringent” — under a Democrat-controlled FCC, said Garvey Schubert Barer attorney John Crigler recently. Those proposals include requiring the main studio to be in the city of license and returning to the days of 24/7 staffing. Crigler spoke during a legal session at the Eastern Region Public Media confab in Baltimore that I attended.

Margaret Miller of Dow Lohnes PLLC noted when we went through a change in administration eight years ago, no decisions came out of the commission for quite some time. This is something Crigler predicts will happen at all federal agencies.

Ernest Sanchez, principal of The Sanchez Law Firm, said there may be an unusual amount of so-called “linkage” between the election and future decisions coming out of the commission. He noted that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is “a leading advocate” of LPFM. McCain championed a bill to drop third-adjacent channel protection for existing broadcasters in order to shoehorn more low-power stations onto the FM band. Public radio sources said they expected that issue to get more traction in the coming year, no matter who won the election.

Also, Sanchez said President-Elect Barack Obama has told confidantes he believes eight years is too long a term for a broadcaster to hold a license. That may signal more public interest sensitivity from a new FCC chair, he said.