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FCC Tightening Up Technical Waivers

Agency applying more rigorous scrutiny to work through backlog

In order to reduce a backlog of radio applications that have languished at the commission for many years, the Media Bureau is trying to streamline its paperwork procedures and “commoditize” the process.

So says Audio Division Chief Peter Doyle.

At the Radio Show last week Doyle said the division acts on 10,000 cases each year, seemingly with fewer staffers each time. The current chairman “has put resources and energy behind trying to tackle what’s been a serious backlog,” Doyle said. He estimates there will be cases “in the double-digits” ready to be finalized by the Oct. 30 meeting.

“As we try to commoditize” the application review process more it means “we’re going to be more rigorous when considering waivers,” he said. “The bad news I’m bringing you … is you’re not special. If hundreds of people can make the same argument, it’s just not going to fly with us anymore,” Doyle said, referencing that some broadcasters cite mountains in California or Colorado as justification for a particular waiver. “If the rules don’t work for you then a [petition for a] rulemaking is the way to go, he said.

He asked broadcast attorneys to rethink the current “hyper-litigious culture” that led to the backlog.