REC files comments in LPFM/NCE Comparative Review and Public Notice proceedings
Today, REC Networks had filed separate comments in two different proceedings before the Federal Communications Commission.
MB Docket 19-3 calls for some changes in the comparative review process for noncommercial educational (NCE) and Low Power FM (LPFM) broadcast stations. This Notice of Proposed Rulemaking called for the following:
- Removing the requirement of specific wording on NCE governing documents in order to claim preference points for localism and diversity.
- Establish uniform divestiture pledge policies for future NCE applications.
- Expanding tie-breaker criteria and revise procedures for mandatory time-sharing in the NCE full service.
- Clarify and modify the NCE "holding period" rules.
- Prohibit an LPFM application that was dismissed due to a board member with a "pirate past" to be amended to remove the offending board member.
- Permit LPFM time sharing agreements prior to tentative selectee designations.
- Establish procedures for remaining tentative selectees following dismissal of accepted point aggregation time share agreements.
- Reclassify gradual NCE and LPFM board member changes (during the initial application process) as minor.
- Require certification (and possibly a documentation requirement) of site assurance at the time of filing the initial application (NCE and LPFM).
- Streamline tolling procedures and notification requirements.
- REC's proposal to extend the LPFM construction period from 18 to 36 months on all applications. including modifications.
- REC's proposal to replace the prohibition on assigning unbuilt LPFM construction permits with an 18 month holding period to discourage trafficking while permitting the saving of failing stations.
- REC's proposal to eliminate the 3 year holding period after an LPFM station is constructed to assign the station to a different qualified organization.
- REC's proposal to make a LPFM "holding period" similar to NCE (in the first 4 years of licensed operations, LPFM applications granted under the point system can only be assigned to organizations that would qualify under the same or higher number of points and must have a community presence date older than the youngest organization in the MX group.
In comments, REC supported most of these items but staunchly opposed the Commission's proposal to permit LPFM time sharing agreements prior to the designation of tentative selectees. In comments, REC stated that allowing this will lead to gamesmanship of the rules and "point stacking" similar to what happened in the 2013 LPFM window involving the so-called "Westside 5" applicants (Future Roots/dublab, et al.) and in Philadelphia with the "Germantown 3". In an ex parte presentation to Audio Division staff prior the Commission meeting adopting the NPRM, citing the currently allowed 10 hour minimum of hours for a time share proponent, REC had proposed a plan called "Viable Time Sharing" that required that each proponent in a time share group has a schedule that would be viable.by requiring each time share proponent to have a minimum of 36 hours of broadcasting per week with a minimum of 5 consecutive hours between 6AM and Midnight. REC also supported the concept of holding a "mini-window" in the event that the winner of a time share slot did not build their station. In comments, REC stated that no party will ever build an LPFM station if they are only going to be afforded 10 or 12 hours per week.
REC showed support for the other items that were proposed and sustained support for the REC proposals that will extend construction periods and save failing stations.
In a separate proceeding, REC has filed late comments in MB Docket 17-264. This proceeding, which came out of the Media Modernization initative calls for simplifcation of the rules of how broadcast stations have to give notice to the general public in the wake of certain types of application activity such as new stations, major moves and assignments to other organizations. REC's late involvement in this proceeding was prompted by a recent interpretation of Section 311(a)(1) of the Communications Act which stated that §73.3580 of the Commission's Rules does apply to LPFM stations despite a lack of cross reference to the rule in §73.801.
In Comments, REC supported the existing rule that permits operating noncommercial broadcast stations to broadcast public notice information over the air in lieu of advertising in the newspaper and that an old proceeding, MB Docket 05-6, which proposed to eliminate this exemption, be terminated.
REC also expressed serious concern regarding implementing §73.3580 as written on its impact on new-entrants. The costs surrounding these advertisements may be a barrier for these new-entrant organizations. In comments, REC recognized Section 311(a)(1) of the act and that statute requres public notice. REC offered recommendations that new-entrant LPFM applicants should be permitted to meet their public notice in one of three ways:
- Through a general circulation newspaper, however reduce the number of ads from four to one.
- Through physical public notice at a public place such as a post office, city hall or at the proposed station location on a notice that can be read by the general public (such as on a post or in a window).
- Through a well known local website or through a website that is constructed in the private sector for the sole purpose of publishing public notices related to broadcasting.
REC is reviewing its options on how to achieve the ability for new entrants to be able to apply without the extreme expense of legal notice advertising.
You may view these documents on our FCC Filings page.