Due to CDBS Limitations . . . .

Posted on February 19th, 2014 by

The broadcast industry has become quite accustomed to the FCC’s Consolidated Database System (CDBS) since it was launched several years ago.  Under normal circumstances, the system generally performs well.  But regular users of the CDBS system, which allows the electronic filing of virtually every regulatory filing required of broadcasters, have experienced and are familiar with certain CDBS quirks, limitations and shortcuts.

Recently, an applicant for a new Low Power FM application experienced a CDBS quirk, but was able to convince the FCC to accept its application filed some two weeks after the filing deadline.  The applicant had timely submitted its application during the window, but needed to file an amendment to it before the window expired – an action that is normally allowed in window filing proceedings.  But CDBS would not permit the amendment to the already filed application, so the applicant did the next best thing – it deleted the original application, and then created and attempted to file a replacement application before the close of the window.  But it was unable to make that filing.

So the applicant did the next, next best thing – it filed its application late, and then asked the Media Bureau for relief.  The Bureau was able to confirm that the earlier filed application had indeed been timely filed (since it had been issued a file number), and that “due to CDBS limitations” the timely filed application “could not be routinely amended.”  And so, the Bureau accepted the late-filed application (but not a subsequent amendment to that application).

CDBS is software driven.  Sometimes, the FCC makes the system “smart” so that certain actions that would not otherwise be permissible are prevented by the system.  That computer coding likely saves the FCC tons of unnecessary work in returning applications or considering petitions for reconsideration when applications are dismissed.

But sometimes, the computer coding isn’t complete, and doesn’t allow an otherwise permissible action, and that is when things get sticky.  Applicants should first refer to the instructions for any filing window for help or an explanation, as the FCC will sometimes provide a unique way to make something happen in CDBS.  But if not, the applicant should call the help desk and keep as much documentation as possible to prove the actions it has taken (i.e., converting filings or CDBS receipts to PDF).  And when all else fails, asking the Media Bureau for relief can make the difference between having or not having a viable application.

In this day and age of select filing windows, opened only when the FCC decides to do so, efforts to get a late or other defective filing recognized and accepted can make a huge difference.  In this case, for example, the likelihood of a future filing window for new LPFM stations is infinitesimally small, so this was the applicant’s only real chance of securing a LPFM permit.