David Oxenford - Color

David Oxenford

By: David Oxenford, Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP

On Friday (12/13), the FCC released a Public Notice setting out the rules for the auction for new FM channels, which will being in April.  The Public Notice sets out the bidding process for the auction, and the dates for pre-auction filing deadlines necessary to participate in the auction. The notice also rejects several petitions asking that additional channels be added to the auction and one request for a deletion from the auction list. Thus, the channels to be sold in the auction remain the same as originally proposed. A list of the 130 available FM construction permits, with the minimum bid necessary for each of these channels, is available here.

The Public Notice sets out the following pre-auction dates and deadlines that those planning to participate in the auction must observe. These dates are as follows:

  • Auction Tutorial Available (via Internet) by January 22, 2020
  • Short-Form Application (FCC Form 175) Filing Window Opens January 29, 2020, 12:00 noon Eastern Time (ET)
  • Short-Form Application (FCC Form 175) Filing Window Deadline February 11, 2020, 6:00 p.m. ET
  • Upfront Payments (via wire transfer) March 20, 2020, 6:00 p.m. ET
  • Mock Auction April 24, 2020
  • Auction Bidding Begins April 28, 2020

The “short-form” is an application that anyone wishing to participate in the auction must file. This short-form application sets out the channels in which the applicant is interested and some basic information about the applicant. Specific site locations that an applicant wants to protect can also be listed in the short form. Upfront payments are required monetary deposits that must be made by auction participants in amounts sufficient to cover the minimum fees for the channels on which the applicant is interested in bidding. More details on the information required in the forms, and the mechanics of the auction, are set out in the Public Notice which should be carefully reviewed by parties interested in any of these construction permits authorizing the new stations.

FCC staff separately released a Public Notice announcing a freeze on the filing of all FM minor change applications during the Form 175 auction filing window from January 29, 2020 to February 11, 2020. This freeze is to stabilize the FM database so that applicants can file for the channels that they desire and protect any transmitter sites in which they are interested, without having to worry about technical changes being made by stations not involved in the auction.

So, if you are interested in one of these new FM stations, you now know the deadlines, and should be completing your due diligence on channels in which you might have an interest. The opportunity to file for new FM channels comes up at best once a year and often more infrequently (e.g. the last auction was over 4 years ago because of the preoccupation of the FCC’s auction staff with the TV incentive auction), so survey the list and see if there is a channel in this auction that might be of interest to you.

David Oxenford is MAB’s Washington Legal Counsel and provides members with answers to their legal questions with the MAB Legal Hotline. Access information here. (Members only access).

There are no additional costs for the call; the advice is free as part of your MAB membership. 

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