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FCC Seeks to Level Playing Field for FM Service in Rural Areas, AM Auctions

Copps deplores the 'parlor game' played by 'industry insiders'

We reported earlier the Federal Communications Commission was concerned about signal allocations leaving rural areas and tribal communities in favor of larger markets and that it intended to release an item devoted to juggling that balance. The FCC adopted its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on April 7 to promote rural radio and streamline FM allotment and AM and NCE FM channel assignment procedures. This week it released details of that NPRM.

Among the proposals, the commission would restrict moves of existing stations from smaller communities to a suburb of a larger marke; prohibit FM translator “band hopping” applications; and cap the number of AM applications that can be filed in an auction window. The agency has also tentatively concluded that to serve the public interest, federally recognized tribes should have a priority in FM allotments, AM filing window applications and noncom educational FM filing window applications.

Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein stated that the point is to open up AM radio to new licensees and to close a loophole in the FM rules that allows potential licensees on the outskirts of more urban areas to “take advantage of our procedures by using nearby communities as backdoors to reach larger, well-served, urban areas.”.

Acting Chairman Michael Copps said the FCC hopes to make its allotment and assignment rules more transparent and level the playing field as the commission’s policies “have been transformed over time into an arcane parlor game that only industry insiders know how to play.”

Public comments to MB Docket No. 09-52 are due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. More details to come in next week’s Leslie Report.