Legislation enacted last week to authorize FCC auctions of TV spectrum contains some protections for pubcasters, but broadcasters will face technical challenges that will exceed the difficulties of their transition to DTV just four years ago. The new law sketches out an extraordinarily complex process of auctioning off TV broadcast spectrum to mobile digital carriers and repacking reduced TV channels in the remaining spectrum, though many questions remain unanswered. The law now assures broadcasters that any spectrum giveback will be voluntary, for noncommercial and commercial operators alike. The FCC will not force any relocations from UHF to VHF or from high to low VHF channels. It will hold just one round of auctions, mandated for completion within 10 years, and one repacking to arrange the spectrum more efficiently.
Seattle news/talk station KUOW is reevaluating its plans for an FM signal it’s been leasing in Tacoma, Wash., after a feasibility study revealed that prospective donors weren’t inclined to back a capital campaign to buy the station.
Fans of two now-defunct college stations are pursuing legal actions against the sale of the stations to Minnesota-based American Public Media Group.Two supporters of Florida’s Christian Family Coalition filed suit Oct. 18  in a state court in Miami to overturn Trinity International University’s September sale of former Christian music station WMCU to APMG, which aims to start a classical music station in Miami. In the Twin Cities area, where a classical station was on the losing side, a group of former listeners to St. Olaf College’s bygone WCAL has questioned its sale to APMG’s Minnesota Public Radio, which converted it to The Current, a contemporary music station. On.
Low-power FM? Try nearly no-power. The scope of the controversial noncommercial service shrunk abruptly last month when Congress effectively cut the number of possible LPFM stations by an estimated 80 percent. NPR and other opponents of the service who had worried about LPFM interfering with their stations celebrated their victory, while media activists, former pirates and other microradio supporters accused lawmakers of bowing to pressure from the powerful broadcasting lobby. “We are disappointed that Congress chose to ignore the will of the people,” said Cheryl Leanza, deputy director of the pro-LPFM Media Access Project.
Until recently, it seemed that Simon Frech’s squabble with two religious broadcasters over an FM frequency would never end. In 1995, the FCC stopped considering competing applications from noncommercial broadcasters for radio and television frequencies, leaving Frech and many others in bureaucratic limbo. Adding it up
The FCC’s new point system for choosing among noncommercial broadcasters vying for the same frequency will reward several characteristics:
3 points if the applicant is locally based, which the FCC defines as being physically headquartered, having a campus, or having three-fourths of its board members within 25 miles of the community;
2 points if the applicant owns no other local broadcast stations. An applicant that can’t claim this credit but is part of a statewide network providing service to accredited schools can also claim 2 points;
1-2 points to an applicant whose frequency covers significantly more area and population than the next best proposal. “It’s frustrating,” says Frech, g.m. of KMUD in Garberville, Calif., who was about to launch a campaign to persuade the religious broadcasters to back off.
FCC members approved the proposed sale of WQED’s second station, WQEX, in a split vote. See also the
text of the order, Dec. 15, 1999.William Kennard and Gloria Tristani (Democrats)
Michael Powell and Harold Furchtgott-Roth (Republicans)
Susan Ness (Democrat)
Statement of Chairman William Kennard and Commissioner Gloria Tristani, dissenting in part
We disagree with the majority’s decision not to designate Cornerstone’s application for hearing. Under Section 73.621 of our rules, an applicant for a reserved channel must demonstrate that the station “will be used primarily to serve the educational needs of the community.” If there is any substantial and material question of fact on that issue, the Commission must designate the application for hearing on the issue of whether the applicant’s proposed programming is primarily educational.