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FCC Rejects Appeal From Florida FM Applicant

The commission upheld the Media Bureau’s actions that left NCE hopeful without a CP

It appears that despite its appeals, Florida Community Radio won’t able to get the noncommercial station that it had planned to build in Horseshoe Beach, Fla.

This is a case at the Federal Communications Commission that involves the legal concept of “tolling.” FCC rules specify time limits on construction permits but also provide for them to be “tolled,” meaning extended, in certain circumstances like natural disasters.

In 2015 the FCC issued a CP for a new FM to be called WRDB, with a three-year deadline. Shortly before it expired in 2018, the applicant Florida Community Radio asked the Media Bureau for a delay, citing the effects of Hurricane Irma and the FCC’s decision to eliminate the main studio rule, which meant it needed to do more engineering analysis for an STL. The bureau gave a six-month extension, but only for the second reason.

[Related: “Radio Eyes Advantages of Deregulation”]

Then in October 2018, Hurricane Michael hit. FCR requested another delay based on the impact of that hurricane on its ability to construct the station; this too was granted.

Shortly before that extension ran out, FCR submitted another tolling request so it could perform an analysis of whether station power lines should be underground rather than on a pole and to do a structural analysis of the potential impact of a future Category 5 storm on its antenna. At this juncture the Media Bureau said it asked for specific information explaining how Hurricane Michael had prevented FCR from meeting its latest deadline but that FCR did not provide it.

The bureau denied the extension request, saying the studies involved could have been done within the extended construction term. This would mean no new station.

The applicant asked for reconsideration but the FCC denied it late last year. FCR, still hopeful, then came back with an application for review by the full commission, asking it to overturn what the Media Bureau had decided.

It said the CP deserved further postponement because the tower that FCR wanted to use is in a FEMA-designated floodplain area, and that the FCC is required to evaluate the effects of proposals in floodplains, “especially when such alternative steps being proposed … are meant to reduce or mitigate the risk of damage in anticipation of an act of God.” It raised other objections to the bureau’s earlier actions.

Now the commission has turned down this appeal. It said the latest argument tried to raise new matters that its staff never had the opportunity to address (but would have rejected anyway). It also said the appeal tried to reintroduce an issue it had already decided when it denied tolling after the earlier hurricane. And, among further reasons, it said FCR has not shown impediments caused by Hurricane Michael “but instead now predicates its argument on potential future acts of God.”

In short, the commission has dismissed or denied all the arguments in the application for review; so barring further actions, there’ll be no CP for Florida Community Radio, and WRDB’s call letters now bear the dreaded “D” prefix for deleted.

 

 

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