The Audio Division of the Federal Communication Commission’s Media Bureau has declined to let a California company use STA procedures to avoid delays in the AM licensing process.
Ontario Broadcasting has been trying since 2004 to change the community of license for KSPA(AM) 1510 kHz from Ontario to Chino, an effort that has been hung up because it conflicts with two earlier, mutually exclusive short-form auction applications for Culver City, part of the AM auction process.
This December the company asked the commission for Special Temporary Authorization to allow it to operate as though the community of license had been changed. The commission staff said no, because an STA was “not the appropriate vehicle for the establishment of new broadcast service in circumvention of the two-step construction permit and license process.” It also found that the company had failed to demonstrate that the public interest would be served with an STA.
Ontario replied by reiterating the history of KIEV(AM) on first-adjacent 1500 kHz in Burbank. In 1984, Royce International Broadcasting won a CP to build that station with Burbank as city of license, but it did not, and filed a series of requests for extension and administrative appeals that were resolved only in 2008.
“Ontario notes that Royce’s actions effectively left the 1500 kHz (and adjacent-channel) spectrum in the Burbank area unused for 20 years,” the commission summarized. “Ontario argues that grant of the STA request while the channel remains unused pending the outcome of the auction is in the public interest since it would ‘allow [Ontario] to expand the reach of KSPA and provide first local service to the community of Chino while the two mutually exclusive Culver City application battle through a yet-to-be scheduled auction.'”
The FCC denied the appeal. It said the Communications Act states that STAs may be issued where there are “extraordinary circumstances requiring temporary operations in the public interest and that delay in the institution of such temporary operations would seriously prejudice the public interest.” This situation does not constitute an extraordinary circumstance, the staff decided.
“Although Royce’s attempts to preserve its authorization to construct KIEV(AM) present an extreme example and serve to underscore the commission’s wisdom in setting a finite construction period with limited exceptions, there is no evidence or finding that Royce abused the commission’s processes,” it ruled. “Royce’s lawful conduct cannot justify the relief sought here. Ontario seeks to use STA procedures to avoid the delays inherent in the AM licensing process. Although Ontario’s frustration is understandable, similar arguments could be advanced by numerous AM auction applicants proposing to provide new AM service.”
The commission said it knows of no instance in which it has issued an STA for a broadcaster to temporarily utilize unused spectrum as a means to “provided expanded service” while awaiting the grant of an application to provide that service.