19-3: Prior to meeting, FCC adopts Report and Order on LPFM & NCE administrative rule changes

In an early vote prior to the December 12 open meeting, the Federal Communications Commission has adopted a Report and Order on MB Docket 19-3.  A majority of the items in this docket spell out the ground rules for future filing windows for new noncommercial educational (NCE) and low power FM (LPFM) broadcast stations.  The FCC has officially addressed the timeline for future filing windows.  REC is promoting a timeline that calls for the window for new NCE FM stations to take place in mid to late 2020 (following Auction 106 and the conclusion of the TV repack) and for LPFM stations, in early 2022 following the July, 2021 sunset of analog low power television operations.  We note that it is REC's position that the opening of future filing windows also needs to be contingent on a Commission decision on MB Docket 17-264 related to broadcast public notices as the rules proposed will ease a major burden from prospective new entrants in the upcoming windows.

For existing LPFM stations, the adopted changes will extend the construction period for LPFM modifications and new permits from 18 months to 36 months (without the need to ask for an extension).  Currently granted construction permits will be automatically extended out.  

The details of the changes that appeared on the draft of the Report and Order for MB Docket 19-3 can be found our previous article on this proceeding. 

From the draft version of the Report and Order that was released in November, the only change is a clarification requested by the public broadcasters (NPR, PBS, CPB, APTS) in respect to when board changes trigger a minor vs. a major change.

The Commission did reject a request by Discount Legal (Michael Couzens & Alan Korn) that would have allowed for "secondary grants" in MX groups.  Secondary grants would be applications that are a part of a group of mutually exclusive (MX) applications that as a result of the decision made in a MX group would otherwise be grantable.  REC supports secondary grants as it would constitute spectrum efficiency and would widen opportunities for diversity.

The rules will not go into effect until after they are published in the Federal Register.