The Federal Communications Commission shot down Loyola University Maryland’s request for a construction permit for new low-power FM station in Baltimore, saying that the university’s reading of the FCC Rule surrounding LPFM ownership and cross-ownership limits was erroneous.
It all began with the stacking up of points. Loyola was part of a large group of mutually exclusive applicants who filed an application in the 2013 LPFM filing window. In September 2014, the commission conducted a point-system analysis of this group, known as LPFM MX Group 198, and determined that five applications in this group were each entitled to five comparative points, while the applications of Loyola and another entity were each entitled to four points. Those first five applicants — which included the Center for Emerging Media, the Benedictine Society of Baltimore City, the United Workers Association, Johns Hopkins University and St. Joseph’s Sykesville — were tentative selectees of LPFM Group 198 on a timeshare basis.
Soon after, Loyola filed a petition to deny, saying that the commission erred in two areas: for not awarding the Loyola application an additional point for diversity of ownership, and for erroneously awarding a point under that criterion to Johns Hopkins University.
The commission agreed with Loyola’s second argument — saying that the Johns Hopkins application should not have been a tentative selectee — but affirmed that Loyola was not entitled to a comparative point because one of its board members holds attributable interests in two other broadcast stations.
That led to a back and forth of he said/she said: In its petition, Loyola argued that the wording of the FCC Rules was not clear when it came to LPFM ownership and cross-ownership limits.
The commission rejected that claim, saying that the wording is indeed clear. The commission also rejected Loyola’s arguments that it lacked notice of this attribution distinction, adding for emphasis the section of the FCC Rules that addresses the issue: “An applicant must hold no attributable interest in any other broadcast station.” In reply to Loyola’s argument, the commission said in the order, “[Loyola’s] reading contradicted the text of the Rule and would undermine the commission’s goal of promoting diversity of ownership.”
In its second petition, Loyola continued to argue the diversity ownership issue, but the commission again denied the petition, this time for two reasons: One, because the commission hadn’t yet taken final action on any of the applications, and as such this second petition didn’t warrant consideration. Two, the commission said that Loyola’s petition relies on arguments that had already been considered and rejected. In cases such as these, a petition does not warrant consideration, the commission said.
Meanwhile, several members of LPFM MX Group 198 amended their applicants to file a points-aggregation time-share agreement. The Center for Emerging Media and the United Auto Workers aggregated 10 comparative points, thus breaking a tie in their favor, which lead the commission to subsequently grant construction permits for new LPFM stations to those two applications and to dismiss all other applications, including Loyola’s.