REC files Reply Comments opposing exceptions to NCE application caps while calling for more transparency at the FCC.

On Monday, REC Networks has filed Reply Comments in two FCC proceedings.

In MB Docket 20-343, REC opposed a suggestion by Educational Media Foundation (EMF), the largest licensee of noncommercial educational (NCE) FM broadcast stations operating under the K-Love and Air1 brands, that called for the ability to file unlimited applications outside of the urban markets as long as those proposals do not face any competing applications.

In Reply Comments, REC included analysis, including a copy of the REC 2021 NCE Opportunity Map and tabled analysis that clearly shows that there will be only a small number of opportunities for new stations in the Nielsen Audio markets and that most applications filed in the window will not achieve the “50% of the entire market” threshold proposed by EMF to be considered an application subject to the application cap.  REC continued to support an application cap of five, half of what the FCC proposed, but would also consider an application cap even lower. 

REC states that national licensees like EMF are not capable of truly establishing a local nexus between the station and the community and therefore cannot any kind of local or diverse programming service. Comments further state that EMF full-service stations in rural areas are merely feeding points for FM translators located in urban areas.

REC also warned the Commission about potential gamesmanship that may take place in the window and asked staff to be more vigilant towards the fraud that we experienced in the 2013 Low Power FM filing window.  REC also reiterated its legislative position of a national NCE station ownership cap.   

In Reply Comments in MD Docket 20-270, REC also questions the methods used to calculate the application fees mirroring the concerns expressed by the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), representing the Amateur Radio Service and by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). 

For the Amateur Radio Service, REC continues to oppose the application fees. We originally questioned the true costs to the Commission to process Amateur Radio Service applications, especially considering that a large majority of application activity is handled directly by the ham community and uses a batch filing system provided by the FCC, which substantially limits staff involvement in the application process.  REC’s position is that those who pass Amateur Radio examinations should be rewarded and that the public interest is advanced through the encouragement of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects, especially among women and girls.  REC opposed the ARRL’s proposal that persons under a particular age should be allowed a fee waiver as such a proposal is not compatible with the current Volunteer Examiner Coordinator process and could lead to identity theft.   The FCC has received over 3,900 comments in this proceeding by individual Amateur Radio Service licensees.

On the broadcasting side of the house, REC continues to support the new fee being proposed for minor modifications to FM translator facilities and a new fee for filing a short-form application in commercial broadcast auctions, including an incremental fee for each allotment that is applied for.  This will reduce the amount of speculation in the service and could slightly increase opportunities for noncommercial educational organizations to obtain FM allotments for community radio purposes. 

The filing window for new noncommercial educational FM broadcast stations is expected to take place sometime in 2021.  REC Networks is currently accepting shows of interests from organizations desiring to file applications in this window.  Interested parties can contact REC Networks.  More information about the service and this window can be found at the REC Networks website.