F. Point System for Resolving Mutually Exclusive Applications (97-100)

  1. In the Report and Order, the Commission created a point system to determine selection among mutually exclusive applications.  The point system includes three selection criteria: (1) established community presence; (2) proposed operating hours; and (3) local program origination.  The system will employ voluntary time-sharing as an initial tie-breaker; that is, tied applicants will have an opportunity to aggregate points by submitting time-share proposals.  Successive license terms will be used as a final tie-breaker.
  2. Kenneth Bowles seeks clarification of the local program origination point language.[1]  Under the point system, applicants that pledge to originate locally at least eight hours of programming per day will be assigned one point.[2]  In the Report and Order we defined local origination as the production of programming within 10 miles of the proposed transmitting antenna.[3]  Bowles argues that this point should be broadened to include programming that “covers local persons and/or their activities and/or local issues.”[4]  We agree with Bowles that our definition of locally originated programming should be clarified, but we find Bowles’ preferred substitute to be too broad and difficult to enforce. In the Report and Order, we explained that the local origination criteria

derives from the service requirements for full-service broadcast stations, which are required to maintain the capacity to originate programming from their main studios.  LPFM licensees will not be subject to main studio requirements, and will have discretion to determine the origination point of their programming.  As a comparative selection factor, local program origination can advance the Commission’s policy goal of addressing unmet needs for community-oriented radio broadcasting.  In this regard, we believe that an applicant’s intent to provide locally-originated programming is a reasonable gauge of whether the LPFM station will function as an outlet for community self-expression.[5] 

We believe that these goals will be better served by defining local program origination as the production of programming by the licensee within 10 miles of the proposed transmitting site.  The intent behind awarding a point for pledges to provide such programming is to encourage licensees to maintain production facilities and a meaningful staff presence within the community served by the station.  We clarify that this rule does not necessarily preclude an applicant from claiming a point for local origination based on coverage of a high school away game played more than ten miles away (an example Bowles provided), so long as the production involves facilities located within a 10-mile radius of the antenna.  By focusing on who is producing the programming and where, the rule does not require the Commission to evaluate the content of the station’s broadcasts to determine their local nature, as Bowles’ proposal would.

  1. Black seeks reconsideration of the voluntary time-sharing tie-breaker, alleging that the point skews LPFM allocation against stations that could provide 24-hour-per-day programming.[6]  We understand that an applicant will have the incentive to propose time-sharing even if it could provide full-day programming in order to maximize its points and increase the likelihood it will be selected.  Although this may result in the loss of some valuable programming from a particular source, it will be replaced by programming from a different source.  We believe that the benefit of bringing more voices to the radio service outweighs any disadvantages of the time-sharing approach.
  2. MMTC argues that all educational institutions should be awarded an extra point in order to ensure that the first wave of LPFM licensees is “seeded” by stable, enduring enterprises that will promote the success and spectrum integrity of the FM service.[7]  We will not change the point system to award a greater preference to educational institutions.  Educational institutions generally enjoy the ability to achieve the highest comparative advantage available, due to their longevity, community presence, resources, and ability to provide significant amounts of programming and locally-originated programming.  They are not, however, the only institutions with such merits.  In most cases educational institutions will be able to receive licenses as long as they are willing to time-share.[8]  Although some schools might be reluctant to time-share or have to overcome certain internal procedural hurdles to do so, as MMTC argues, the same could probably be said of many other community institutions.  Operating on a less than full-time basis would not necessarily significantly diminish their ability to contribute to the community, or, in the case of MBTIs, to train a significant number of broadcast professionals.  Moreover, as discussed above, the time-sharing incentives will increase access by more members of the community to the airwaves. 

[1]              Bowles Petition at 3.

[2]              Report and Order, 15 FCC Rcd at 2261, ¶ 144.

[3]              Id.

[4]              Bowles Petition at 3.

[5]              Report and Order at ¶144.

[6]              Black Petition at 1.

[7]              MMTC raises this proposal in its “Suggestion for a Compromise Resolution of the Issues Raised in the Petition to Correct Inadvertent Omission,” filed on May 17, 2000.  Although this letter was filed after the comment deadline, we are considering it here because it raises a significant issue and no party is prejudiced by our consideration.

[8]              Given that most schools would be able to achieve the full three points, giving them an extra point would virtually be tantamount to giving them an absolute preference.