The Federal Communications Commission holds fast to its deadline requirements, even when that means cancellation of a local radio station’s service. In this case, that outcome has vexed a FCC commissioner.
Commissioner Mignon Clyburn concurred in the order that cancels the license of WURB(FM) in Cross City, Fla. But she expressed concern over some timing requirements in FCC rules. She lamented that applicants seeking to provide communities with local radio service are ultimately rejected simply because they are unable to build within a rigid construction permit period.
“The commission has an obligation to ensure that permittees do not engage in spectrum squatting and I fully support this, but we also need to balance the interest of bringing service listening [to the] public,” she wrote in a statement, as the FCC dismissed Urban One Broadcasting Network’s application for a construction permit for the new FM station.
In this instance, a CP was granted before Urban One acquired the station, which means the broadcaster did not have the full benefit of three years to construct a station, Clyburn said. A limited extension — perhaps six months in cases like this one — might be in order in future cases.
“It is my hope that in the future we are able to conduct a more comprehensive review which takes into account the needs of consumers, permittees and those in the commission that must enforce our rules,” she said.
The case itself gets into a somewhat dry discussion involving informal objections, tolling petitions, modification applications and the timing of legal actions.
Urban One had applied for two permits in June and August of 2014 — a construction permit with a tolling request and a CP for minor modifications — for WURB. The station was set to broadcast an urban adult contemporary format targeting 34- to 65-year-old listeners.
Trouble began with an informal objection in June 2014 from Suncoast Radio; it objected to Urban One’s modification application over alleged noncompliance with environmental requirements. The Media Bureau granted part of Suncoast Radio’s objection and denied Urban One’s request to toll its construction period; Urban One responded with two petitions for reconsideration, without success.
The issue made its way before the full commission after Urban One filed an application for review. The company argued that the Suncoastobjection was defective on technical grounds but also disagreed with the bureau’s finding, calling it “untruthful and incorrect” that Urban One had not paid several filing fees. It disputed the bureau’s logic on several other aspects and alleged that its failure to waive the construction deadline was discriminatory.
But the FCC has affirmed its Media Bureau’s conclusion that Urban One’s CP automatically expired on July 21, 2014, and so was forfeited. It also dismissed in part and otherwise denied Urban One’s application for review.
The commission upheld dismissal of the tolling petition on procedural grounds; it also rejected Urban One’s assertion that it was treated differently from other applicants. “Urban One’s application for review cites no case law in support of its claim that the commission has treated other applicants more favorably,” the FCC stated. The rest of Urban One’s arguments were thrown out because of timing issues; but regardless, “all of the new arguments are meritless,” the commission wrote. It provided a list of reasons the arguments were rejected; you canread the case here.
“We note that the outcome of this case would not change even if the STA Request and License Application had been promptly accepted for filing,” the commission wrote. It also reproached Urban One for fashioning its proposed temporary facility as merely a stopgap to allow it to certify construction of some facility by the July 2014 deadline.
In the end, Urban One’s application for review was turned down.
In her concurring statement, Clyburn said her office is willing to listen to those who have ideas for how to improve FCC processes and make them more accessible, “especially to smaller organizations that have limited resources and are less familiar with our rules and application requirements,” she said.