Radio, Radio: FM Radio Licenses Soon to be Available to Educational Institutions

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Womble Bond Dickinson

Elvis Costello once sang that “Radio is a sound salvation,” and for those educational institutions that have given little thought to the possibility of establishing a broadcast radio station, now is the time for such consideration.

The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or “Commission”) recently issued a Public Notice announcing the 2021 opening of a filing window for applications for licenses for new noncommercial FM stations operating on channels between 89.1 and 91.9 FM.   The filing window represents a rare opportunity to obtain FM broadcast licenses, which many educational institutions utilize as a core part of their educational curriculum.  The licensing process is expected to be competitive, and entities potentially interested in applying for a license should begin analyzing the opportunity now in order to be prepared to take advantage of the filing window when it opens.  To date, no specific dates for the filing window have been announced by the FCC.  

The filing window will be the first time in ten years that the FCC has accepted applications for new noncommercial FM station licenses.  The FCC expects a large volume of applications due to the length of time that has passed since the last filing window, as well as because there is no application filing fee, there are no ownership limits, and the FCC has recently simplified and clarified its rules and procedures for filing applications and considering competing applications.  Under the current comparative selection criteria, the Commission would use point system criteria to choose between mutually exclusive applications.  Under the point system, a maximum of seven merit points are awarded based on public interest criteria such as diversity of ownership, localism, and technical superiority.  

In its Public Notice, the FCC proposed to cap at ten the number of applications that any entity may file or hold an attributable interest in, and interested parties may file comments with the FCC.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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