FM Broadcast Filing Window - Class D FM stations in Alaska

Filing wIndow:
Class D FM stations in the state of Alaska (ongoing).  

Window dates:
Applications for new stations are accepted at any time on a first come, first served basis. However, since the conversion to LMS on September 25, 2019, electronic filing of new Class D Alaska stations can't be done right now.  Please contact REC for assistance.

Basic details:
Applicants can be filed for noncommercial educational stations operating on any of the 100 FM broadcast channels.  The station must be physically located in the state of Alaska. 

Applicant requirements and limitations:
Applications may be filed by a non-profit organization that is recognized by any state as a not for profit corporation.  Organizations are not required to be an IRS 501(c) status.  The corporate status must be valid on the date of filing and must remain valid.  It is important to assure that the organization maintains their state annual report filings to avoid a lapse.  New organizations must have their corporation documents stamped by the state on a date prior to the date of.

Current LPFM licensees:
A current licensee of an LPFM station may apply for an Alaska Class D station. If they do so, they must disclose that they are currently the licensee of an LPFM station and must include a pledge that prior to “program test” (completion of construction) of the new full-power facility, the organization would have divested their LPFM station.  This could mean either surrendering the LPFM license for cancellation or assigning it to another qualified non-profit organization.  If the license is assigned, the assignment must be consummated prior to program testing.  In addition, the LPFM license can’t be sold however the transaction can include consideration that consists of the depreciated fair market value of any tangible equipment such as the transmitter, EAS and studio equipment.

Service technical details:
Applicants must propose a facility of less than the minimum for a Class A FM station.  This means no more than 99 watts (0.099 kW) at 30 meters height above average terrain. 

Alaska Class D FM stations must protect other broadcast facilities, including LPFM stations and FM translators using contour overlap. A Class D station may receive interference from other stations.  A Class D station is secondary and is subject to displacement by full-service FM broadcast stations but is protected by other Class D stations, LPFM stations and FM translator stations.

Class D FM stations are currently required to protect full-service and low power TV channel 6 stations however those protection requirements are expected to go away after July, 2021.

Site assurance:
NCE applicants are required to have “assurance” to use the site that is proposed on the application.  Assurance is not a binding contract but instead is a “meeting of the minds” or otherwise, a general understanding that if the applicant is granted a construction permit, the applicant should be allowed to build at the site.  The FCC will require the name and phone number for a site contact during the application process.

Directional antennas:
Directional antennas may be utilized however they must meet the minimum requirement of (1) not having a difference of 2 dB per 10 degrees and in no case shall the antenna radiate at 15 dB under the highest power on the antenna.  This means that many directional antennas commonly used by FM translators can’t be used by Class D NCE stations.  Directional antenna installations must be verified by a proof of performance from the manufacturer and a verification statement from a licensed surveyor that the antenna was constructed per the FCC authorization.

Antennas with only vertical polarization may not be used.

Community coverage requirements:
A community of license must be specified.  This community must be recognized or could be recognized as a community for “allotment” purposes.  This means that the community should have some kind of identity to it (people identify themselves as being from that community) and at the minimum, the community be listed in the US Census Bureau’s Gazetteer as at least a “census designated place”.  The proposed technical facility must place a coverage contour (also known as a 60 dBu contour) over at least 50% of the population of the proposed community of license.

Competing applications (MX):
As applications are “first come, first served”, there should be no situations where competing applications will occur.

Nature of broadcast service
This window is for noncommercial educational (NCE) broadcast stations.  THIS IS NOT FOR COMMERCIAL ENTERPRISES.  If you want to profit from running a radio station, don’t bother filing in this window.  NCE stations may acknowledge “underwriters”, those who give money to the station.  Underwriting acknowledgements can include identifying information such as name, address, phone number, website and even a brief description of the business.  The announcements may not “promote” the business or a certain aspect of the business.  There are strict controls on the language that can be used on the air to make these acknowledgements.  These messages should be made with a station’s voice and not the voice of the underwriter.  VIOLATIONS OF THE RULES REGARDING COMMERCIALS ON NCE STATIONS CAN LEAD TO FINES IN THE TENS-OF-THOUSANDS. 

Parties to the application
As this is an NCE window and involves non-profit organizations, then all board members are a party to the application.  Board members should be vetted for various character issues such as past felony convictions as well as past cases of providing false information to the government.  Normally, up to 20% of the board members may be non-US citizens (remember: green cards and TPS are not considered being a citizen, even if they are a legal resident).  There is an extensive process for organizations with more than 20% foreign citizens on their board.  Board members must also not be on a denial of federal benefits under the U.S. Anti-Drug Act (the same law that denies student loans).  Board members may not also be on the board of an organization that holds an LPFM license (unless that LPFM station is being divested). 

Responsibilities of licensee
Once a facility is completely constructed, the application for license is filed.  Once granted, the facility is fully licensed.  Broadcast licenses are issued for 8-year terms however the original license will be issued for the period of time from when the license is granted until the date when all radio broadcast licenses for that state expire.  The renewal process is fairly easy. 

Class D licensees are also required to maintain an online public inspection file and must add information once every quarter to outline the various local issues that were addressed by the station.  Once every two years and following certain triggering events, Class D licensees must file an ownership report that outlines the current make-up of the board of directors.  Any board changes (including gradual) that exceed 50% from the original application must be first approved by the FCC in a transfer of control process.  This process will need to be repeated whenever the 50% or more of the board members change again.

Class D licensees are not required to have a physical main studio that is accessible to the public but must maintain a local or toll free telephone number which can be accessed by the general public during normal business hours.

Costs
Building and operating a radio station is not cheap.  In the NCE service, you can use newer or older transmitting equipment.  Older transmitters may not have the failsafe modes in them to detect out-of-tolerance situations and immediately take action. They will require more TLC by a qualified engineer who can watch over the operation.  Using older transmitters out of tolerance can lead to notices of violation and possible fines.    Depending on your station’s output power, expect to spend from $2,000 to $4,000 for a transmitter.  Your antenna size and cost will also depend on how much power you are running.  Simple non-directional may cost around $700 to start.  Directional antennas, especially those with a custom design can get very expensive.  Expect to pay into the 5 figures. 

All broadcast stations are required to be equipped with an emergency alert system (EAS) decoder.  Expect to pay at least $3,500 for this piece of equipment.  In addition, software updates that keep up with changes made by the federal government may lead to additional charges once every few years.

Broadcast stations that carry copyrighted music over the air must pay annual royalty fees to up to three performing rights organizations (ASCAP, BMI and SESAC).  Their rates are set by a federal copyright royalty board.  Rates vary based on whether the station is music centric (more than 20% music) or talk centric (more than 20% talk).   Depending on the station’s population served, the total annual royalties can run from about $1,600.  Stations that decide to “stream” their audio over the internet are even higher and also include other organizations (SoundExchange).  Radio stations licensed to accredited schools may be able to get lower rates.  Royalty rates increase every year.

When determining the costs of running a radio station, you also need to take into consideration the day to day costs including power, other infrastructure as well as any applicable property taxes and upkeep on the equipment. 

For noncommercial educational broadcast applicants and licensees, the FCC (federal government) does not charge any application or regulatory fees.

For filing assistance, REC does charge for services based on a “level of effort” from each situation.  For Alaska Class D stations, you may be looking at professional fees from about $2,000~$4,000 based on exactly what needs to be done.  Most situations will come in on the lower end of that range.  REC’s NCE offering will include the filing of the original application, up to one modification in the event of mutual exclusivity, the post-construction application to obtain the full license and the original ownership report filing that is due just after licensing.  The higher fees may apply when directional antennas or other complexities are added.  Additional fees may be charged if the applicant makes a change after significant work is performed.    REC bills in advance before work is done.  REC can be paid securely online using a major credit or debit card. Payment by check is also permitted but must clear prior to the filing window.  For public sector and educational institutions, Michelle Bradley of REC can provide a W-9. 

REC can provide very basic “preliminary checks” for “yes/no” answers on potential availability prior to payment.  It is REC’s policy to not collect unless we are sure the request can be done.  To keep our prices low, REC has a no-refund policy. 

There is no retainer or other fee to start your relationship with REC Networks for this window.  Please contact REC by e-mail at lpfm@recnet.com or call 202 621-2355. 

We look forward to working with you.  We hope to hear you on the air real soon!