Petitions Mostly Oppose FCC's New FM Allocation Rules
May 19, 2011 at 4:25 AM (PT)
The FCC's proposal to change its rules on rural radio to encourage more radio ownership by Native American tribes and to make it more difficult for stations to move into urban areas has drawn several petitions for reconsideration and reply comments, with most broadcasters opposing the Commission's rule changes.
GILA RIVER TELECOMMUNICATIONS, INC.'s reply comments supported many of the proposed changes, but said that the Commission should not accept any applications for new FM allocations made through the Tribal Allotment Priority unless the applicant qualifies for its own tribal preference. "Unfortunately, the Tribal Allotment Priority provides no assistance to Tribes or Tribal-controlled applicants during the FM application or auction stage," GILA RIVER told the Commission. "Given the two-step nature of the commercial FM licensing process, a Tribe or Tribal-controlled entity may successfully petition the FCC to allot a channel for a new commercial FM station by employing the Tribal Priority at the first stage, but then ultimately be outbid at the auction and not be granted a construction permit in the second stage. For this reason... GRTI reiterates its support for the Tribal Application Threshold Requirement." The company also called for the FCC to consider expediting the allocation process to speed up the granting of new stations for Tribal Lands.
A group of several broadcast companies, including RADIO ONE, MULTICULTURAL RADIO, WAY BROADCASTING, and several smaller companies, plus the MINORITY MEDIA AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS COUNCIL, ripped the proposal for changes in the allocation process as "revers(ing) nearly 30 years of case law and relies on assumptions and speculation rather than a factual record.... Section 307(b) imposes an obligation upon the Commission to distribute frequencies among the various communities equitably, efficiently and fairly. The statute requires the distribution of frequencies based on demand for its use. It says nothing about presuming the applicant’s future intent to serve areas beyond its proposed community of license. There is no foundation for the Commission’s inquiry into the likelihood of local programming under its Section 307(b) mandate. In adopting its new policy, the Commission has ignored its own past history, the purpose behind Section 307(b), the overwhelming majority of the comments and the need for local service to many deserving communities." The filing challenged the rule's assumption that rural service was declining and needs to be preserved, asserting, "there is no factual evidence that rural service is lacking or that demand for such service is not being met."
ENTRAVISION's Petition for Reconsideration said that the company "wishes to express its surprise that the Commission felt the need to undertake a wholesale revision of its policies dealing with proposals for new allotments and changes in communities of license. This surprise arises from a record of near unanimity in opposing any substantive changes to the policies and rules dealing with Section 307(b).... there has no been call for further modifications, let alone a wholesale revision in policies, and a continuation of existing policies, which have not caused material harm to applicants, radio stations, or communities, would have been the appropriate course of action for the Commission to have taken." The company asked the Commission to clarify whether the new policy would affect moves of stations within the same Urbanized Area.
WILLIAM B. CLAY's petition for partial reconsideration asserted that while the "urbanized area coverage presumption for FM channel allotments is a step in the right direction," it is "neither broadly effective nor legally sound. It bars some possible changes in community of license that should be regarded as not deserving of any first local service preference. But it permits many others that are equally lacking in the semblance of public benefit." CLAY proposed a "universal policy that directly links 'local service' allotment preferences to the community or collection of communities most likely to benefit from the transmission service provided by any FM facility, replacing the new policy that governs only those few facility changes which penetrate Census-defined urbanized areas."
And M&M BROADCASTERS, LTD.'s petition for partial reconsideration objected to applying the new allocation rules to applications pending as of the release date of the order. "This determination to change the rules in the middle of the game for applications that propose community of license changes is basically unfair to those applicants that spent considerable time, effort, and money to craft a proposal that would be found to serve the public interest under the Commission's prior criteria, only to be told months or years later that a new and more restrictive set of rules will apply," the petition complained.