FCC Rules in 33 Mutually Exclusive FM CPs

It rescinds two earlier tentative winners in Hawaii and Minnesota
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Solomon used a sword; the FCC doesn’t have it so easy.

Tiebreakers, localism, diversity points and other considerations are all part of the complicated process by which the Federal Communications Commission compares “mutually exclusive” applications for permits to build noncommercial educational FM stations.

It has just resolved 33 such cases, most of which came about from filing windows in 2007 and 2010. In issuing its list of tentative selectees, it noted that “each group of applicants has had an opportunity to resolve application conflicts by settlement.”

Selection means the FCC considers the winner qualified to be the licensee of the new or modified NCE FM station it proposed. But this triggers a 30-day period for the filing of petitions to deny.

In issuing the list of tentative selectees, FCC also put out a narrative explaining its point system analyses for each mutually exclusive proceeding. Some of these groups were being considered for the first time; in others, the staff had named a winner earlier but had to do more work because of challenges.

An example of the decision process is in Hemet, Calif., where 11 applications proposed service on Channel 273A, including a community college, several churches and a women’s peace group. This was “NCE Reserved Allotment Group 5.” The FCC staff looked at numerous factors such as whether the applicants would provide a first or second NCE service to at least 10 percent of the population within the station’s service area and at least 2,000 people; diversity of ownership; localism of ownership; area and population served; and (as tie-breakers) the number of other station authorizations and applications.

After all that, the FCC still found it had a three-way tie on its hands, so it used its “tie-breaker of last resort”: mandatory time-sharing. The winners are First Baptist Church of Hemet, Codepink Redlands and the Center for Public Deliberation. Several other groupings also ended in mandatory time-sharing.

Among notable decisions in the ruling this week, the FCC rescinded its earlier selection of Maka’ainana Broadcasting Co. for a new NCE station in Kaneohe, Hawaii, and instead named Calvary Chapel of Honolulu Inc., the tentative recipient for a station in Honolulu. Calvary Chapel had challenged whether Maka’ainana Broadcasting was a legitimate local applicant.

The commission also rescinded an earlier selection of Lincoln High School for a CP in Esko, Minn., and instead chose an application from the State of Wisconsin-Educational Communications Board for a CP in Superior, Wis. The FCC had to decide if its initial analysis had mistakenly included a “singleton” application, thus precluding one of the mutually exclusive applicants from receiving points that otherwise would have been decisive.

— Paul McLane

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