Those Local Newspaper Notices Do Matter

Posted on December 31st, 2014 by

They seem arcane, bothersome and an unnecessary expense. But as a recent FCC decision instructs, required local newspaper notices in connection with certain FCC applications can be critical to the application’s status. The local notice rule is very specific, so pay close attention when reading it or when you get that email from your attorney instructing how it is to be done.

In the recently decided case, a winning bidder for an FM license faced a petition to deny from a competitor, who alleged that the local newspaper notice had not been completed. The FCC had initially determined in a letter decision that the applicant had supplied proof of the required notification. The petitioner claimed the FCC was wrong, first because the proof of notice was for the initial application and not an amendment, and that the applicant knew of and had failed to correct its lack of local notice.

In ruling on the petition, the FCC agreed, finding that the applicant had not published the local notice of the original application in the correct newspaper, had not done a required local notice on the amended application, and that once it did so, was untimely. On the incorrect newspaper reasoning, the FCC pointed out that because there was no daily newspaper published in the community of license, the applicant had to provide local notice in the weekly newspaper published there, as opposed to the daily newspaper published in a nearby community. Confused? That’s not uncommon. The local notice rule uses a graduated approach depending on whether a newspaper is daily or weekly, and based on where it is published. The number and timing of that local notice can change depending on what kind of newspaper, if any, is published in a community.

Here’s the worst part. Normally, a defective local notice is considered remedied by the FCC, even if done later than required. But here, the FCC had already granted the amended application. So it had to rescind that action, and return the application to pending status while the applicant published the proper legal notice. And that requirement means that the application becomes subject to new objections from local citizens.