New Mexico Highlands University Prevails in NCE FM Case

FCC okays locating new noncom in Milan, N.M.; rejects competing AMI appeal
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Sometimes persistence pays off as seen in the case of a university that wanted to bring a new noncommercial FM to New Mexico.

The FCC has okayed the application filed by the board of regents for the New Mexico Highlands University to operate the new FM in Milan, N.M.

The commission turned down a Petition to Deny from Available Media Inc. which had filed a competing application for a construction permit to build a new noncom FM at the Tohajiilee Indian Reservation in New Mexico.

The competing applications for both the university and AMI were part of what the agency called “NCE MX Group 309” in 2008. They were two of the applicants that had filed a total of six mutually exclusive filings to service five different communities in the state.

At first, the agency approved the Tohajiilee application using tie-breaker criteria. But the university protested, arguing AMI didn’t qualify for the all the diversity points the commission had given it in the tie-breaker.

The FCC ultimately agreed with the university, reversed itself and selected the university’s Milan application to grant.

AMI appealed, accusing the university of lack of candor.

In 2011, the Media Bureau dismissed the Tohajiilee application, which AMI again appealed, asserting, among other things, that the university has not maintained diversity of ownership because after the Milan application was filed, a member of the university’s foundation board has joined the university’s board of regents.

In granting the Milan application this week, the FCC rejected AMI’s arguments. The agency did say it originally granted the application prematurely, without first acting on AMI’s appeal, but now it was resolving everything.

The university holds the license for another station, KEDP(FM), in Las Vegas, N.M. and told the commission the coverage contours of both stations would not overlap. 

NMHU also proposed to operate the Milan station as a satellite of KEDP, and asked that the main studio requirement be waived, so it can locate both main studios together. The FCC agreed, noting it traditionally gives noncoms a break on this point due to their limited funding.

The commission did not, however, okay the university’s proposal to locate the new station’s public file in Las Vegas also, telling NMHU the public file needs to be “at a convenient location in Milan” where the public can see the file contents during regular business hours. 

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