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MX Ruling Offers Reminders About Points & Paperwork

FCC offers a lesson in its application and approval process when considering two groups of mutually exclusive applications

The Federal Communications Commission looked deep inside its own rule book to resolve two groups of mutually exclusive applications for new noncommercial educational FM station construction permits. It did so by following a set of procedures that can be found by in Part 73, Subpart K of the rules.

In the first case, several applications were filed for a new NCE FM station construction permit in the tiny river village community of Greenup, Ill., population 1,513.Each proposed to operate on an existing, vacant FM allotment on Channel 230A in part of the non-reserved FM band set aside for NCE use.

In this situation, the FCC applied a specific standard it uses for channel reservation — known as the Third Reservation Standard — under which an applicant must demonstrate several things, including that it will provideNCE radio service to at least 10 percent of the population within the 60 dBu contour of the proposed station.

After that, a point system is put into effect, which takes into account several key issues, such as diversity of ownership and whether the applicant is an established local group. The tie-breakers are which applicant owns the fewest number of radio stations, and then which one has submitted the fewest number of station change applications. When all else fails, the FCC can be expected to hand down a mandatory timesharing decision.

As in all commission applications, paperwork must be in order; applicants are required to document their claims by submitting supporting information to the commission as well as to alocal public file.

“The commission rejects claims where the applicant certifies that it qualifies for points for diversity of ownership or as an established local applicant, but fails to supply supporting information referred to in the certification,” it wrote by way of an explanation. “While there is some flexibility in the type of documentation an applicant may provide, an applicant submitting no timely documentation at all cannot be found to have made a valid certification.”

In the Greenup case, three applications were proposing service on vacant Channel 230A, including Calvary Chapel of Twin Falls, Canton Seventh-Day Adventist Church and Word Power Inc. While both Calvary and Canton said they were entitled to points for diversity of ownership, neither adequately supported their diversity claims, and received no points, the commission decided. When it came down to technical issues, none of the three earned points for offering to serve the widest area and greatest population. As a result, all three finished the points round with zero and proceeded to the tie-breaker round.

With two radio station authorizations to its name (as compared to WPI with five and Calvary with 450), Canton was named a tentative selectee for the new NCE channel.

In a second case, the FCC weighed in on two applications in Maine, and followed the same decision-making path: first determining if any application meets the FCC’s “fair distribution” mandate, in which the commission distributes licenses in a way that serves underserved populations; then a distribution of points for diversity, localism and for largest service area.

In this case, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland was proposing to serve the town of Scarborough, while Community Radio Inc. proposed to serve the village of Oak Hill. In the end, the diocese was credited with a total of five points because its proposal will serve at least 25 percent more area and population than CRI’s proposal; as such, the diocese is the tentative selectee in MX Group 521.

While both Canton and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland were accepted as tentative selectees, their applications were granted conditionally: NCE stations awarded by use of the point system are subject to a holding period that starts with the grant of the construction permit and runs through four years of on-air operations. If either applies to transfer or reassign its permit or license, any new party must meet the same number of point qualifications and only reasonable expenses are covered in the transfer (such as the expense of preparing an application).

Other parties have 30 days to file a petition to deny with the commission on either of these MX decisions.