The author is a partner in the firm of du Treil, Lundin & Rackley.
I think that iHeartMedia’s recent public relations campaign with regard to Class A station nighttime protection needs to be understood in its proper perspective. The FCC is required to consider all comments when making decisions — and the comments that came in during the open comment period for the AM revitalization rulemaking that touched on the Class A issue were overwhelmingly (almost unanimously) in favor of dropping the nighttime skywave protection requirements for Class A stations. We should all want to see iHeartMedia’s FCC comments, whether submitted during the open comment period or later as ex parte presentations, considered with the same weight as all of the other comments. That is how the rulemaking process works.
It should not matter that iHeartMedia is now trying to sway public opinion on the issue. They have every right to do what they are doing, but their comments to the FCC are supposed to count just like those of everyone else when it comes to the rulemaking. They may be grabbing headlines with their ex parte lobbying these days, but the rest of the industry should be able to trust in the rulemaking process to have their voices heard and their opinions considered when the FCC decides what to do. Something called the Administrative Procedure Act guarantees that.
The FCC is poised, I believe, to come out with a proposal with regard to Class A protection in a further NPRM when the R&O of the rulemaking that is open now is released. Given the apparent consensus of commenters in the open comment period for abolition of nighttime skywave coverage area protection for Class A stations, I believe that they must take that step — even though it will have to be in a further NPRM because it is outside the rules changes that were originally proposed. If I am correct about that, the further NPRM will give the industry, including iHeartMedia and others who find themselves in agreement with their public positions, a chance to have all voices heard on the issue.
Ronald D. Rackley, P.E.
du Treil, Lundin & Rackley Inc.