A Few Lessons Learned From the 2021 Noncom Filing Window

Posted on January 31st, 2023 by

With the FCC nearing the end of processing for the hundreds of applications filed in the 2021 filing window for new noncommercial FM stations, there are a few take-aways worth noting.

First, attention to detail matters.  Simple errors can result in applications being dismissed.  A good example is this recent case where an applicant specified the wrong tower company contact information for its tower reasonable assurance showing.  Notably, in that case, the FCC used a formal “Notice of Inquiry” to an applicant to determine certain facts before rendering a decision. We have also seen coordinate errors create numerous issues, almost all of which ended up disqualifying an applicant.  Two sets of eyes on window-filed applications is always a good plan for accuracy, as is planning well ahead so that applications are not rushed.

Second, retaining qualified consulting engineers as early as possible is key to filing applications that maximize applicant chances of prevailing in any mutually exclusive scenario.  Challenges to predicted coverage figures can result in expensive legal proceedings that may have been avoidable.  Legal counsel matters too, especially with ensuring that all required exhibits and explanations are provided during the window, and that application updates are filed when required to keep information accurate after the window closes.

The FCC is now down to only a few remaining applications after recently issuing a combined order deciding points winners in 34 mutually exclusive application groups. For those interested, it offers a bit of a primer on the application of the points system.

The next filling window for new NCE stations will likely not occur for several years.  The last two NCE filing windows were separated by 14 years. While we don’t believe it will be that long before a new window is announced, we would not be surprised if there is no such window opportunity for the rest of this decade.