FCC Opens Tribal Priority For Radio Licenses To Tribes Without Land
March 3, 2011 at 12:28 PM (PT)
As part of its Native Nations Day addressing the issue of expanding communications services to tribal communities, the FCC issued a Second Report and Order, First Order on Reconsideration, and a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking aimed at increasing opportunities for tribal entities to get broadcast radio licenses for Native communities. The Order extends the Tribal Priority in bidding for licenses to tribes without tribal lands or with small or irregularly-shaped lands. In addition, the Commission modified its procedures for determining which communities should receive priority in the award of new or relocated broadcast radio service, which changes the way the Commission will consider move-ins from rural to urban locations. And the Commission opened for comment the issue of whether applicants for commercial FM channels alloted under the Tribal Priority be qualified under the priority themselves.
Chairman JULIUS GENACHOWSKI said that the action "will help Native Nations preserve their culture, language, and community values by making it easier to deploy rural radio service. This will particularly help Native Nations with small or irregularly shaped lands and non-landed Native Nations provide their citizens with programming that meets their needs and interests."
Commissioner ROBERT MCDOWELL noted that the rule changes will "affect proposals for new AM and FM stations, as well as city-of-license changes for existing facilities, by essentially making it presumptively more difficult to add stations to urban markets. Our action today is the latest chapter in a long history of re-adjustments the FCC has made over time in seeking to ensure that all populations -- urban, suburban and rural -- have access to a number of competing radio stations. Although I have some concerns about how today’s decision may affect the long-term financial viability of some stations, I note that the rule changes establish only rebuttable presumptions, not blanket bans, concerning the location of stations. I will be watching with interest to see how reasonably flexible the revised approach turns out to be. And although I am pleased that we are grandfathering some of the pending applications for new facilities under the old prioritization standard, I would have gone further to extend the same treatment to all applications on file as of today."