LPFM Application Crackdown

Posted on May 27th, 2014 by

The FCC’s late 2013 low power FM filing window produced many applicants, but a few have run into a bit of a problem with the FCC.  It seems that a few entities provided some information on their Form 318 applications that made the FCC a bit suspicious.  On its own, the Audio Division analyzed information from several applications and identified several discrepancies and commonalities.

In one case, the FCC determined via electronic searches that the address for an applicant was publicly listed as belonging to a school.  The applicant used that same address for a main studio and for several board members.  The Audio Division staff made calls to the actual address occupants gleaned from public information, and determined that the occupant was the only entity at the address and had no relationship to the LPFM applicant or board members that were using that address.

Another application listed the address, phone number and proposed main studio location as that of a full power noncommercial FM station, which the staff matched to its existing records for that station.

All of this led the staff to issue a letter of inquiry, which noted that the FCC was investigating potential statutory and rule violations and related instances of potential misrepresentation and/or lack of candor in connection with the filed applications.  Responses to the LOI made clear that the information originally supplied was incorrect.

The FCC chose to dismiss all of the applications on other grounds (i.e., changes of control or lack of reasonable site assurance), but began its analysis with the statement that it had not determined whether any of the applicants had engaged in misrepresentation or lack of candor.  Clearly, however, the FCC could have done so and had serious concerns as to whether the applicants were abusing the FCC’s processes.  In these situations, the staff has the ability to refer such matters – even after dismissal – for further adjudication.  It is not clear whether they did so in this instance.

This decision illustrates the FCC’s ability, in today’s electronic age, to ferret out and identify application inconsistencies or commonalities, using both its own database and simple white pages searches.  In the past, such application irregularities were normally only brought to light by opposing applicants.  Now, the FCC can and will do so on its own.