FCC Refuses to Delay New Broadcast Auxiliary Rules

The FCC denied a request by the Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE) to delay the effective date of new broadcast auxiliary service (BAS) coordination rules. The new rules became effective Oct. 16, the date of the FCC Order denying SBE's request. According to the Order, even applications to add missing data not previously required to existing broadcast auxiliary licenses will be subject to the normal $120 application fee.

In an article on the SBE Web site titledFEE WAIVER DENIED, LICENSEES URGED TO UPDATE ULS ASAP, SBE suggested licensees consult with their legal counsel and request a fee waiver and refund for these applications at the time of application and payment. The FCC Order did allow that "a request by an individual applicant for waiver of the application fee for modification of an Aural or TV BAS license remains an option in certain circumstances. "Applications will be considered on a case-by-case basis and have to show good cause and promotion of the public interest. The FCC said, "a fee waiver request based on compliance with a new requirement, such as new coordination procedures, would not be sufficient in this regard."

Under the new frequency coordination rules, BAS applications, except for mobile (temporary fixed service) stations above 2,110 MHz not using the 6.5 GHz and 18 GHz bands, will have to be coordinated in accordance with the procedures in FCC Rules Part 101. These are significantly more complex and likely to be more costly than previous coordination through a local SBE frequency coordinator or coordination committee. The procedure is outlined in FCC Rules Section 101.103(d):

"Proposed frequency usage must be prior coordinated with existing licensees, permittees and applicants in the area, and other applicants with previously filed applications, whose facilities could affect or be affected by the new proposal in terms of frequency interference on active channels, applied-for channels, or channels coordinated for future growth. Coordination must be completed prior to filing an application for regular authorization, or a major amendment to a pending application, or any major modification to a license. In engineering a system or modification thereto, the applicant must, by appropriate studies and analyses, select sites, transmitters, antennas and frequencies that will avoid interference in excess of permissible levels to other users."

Under the Part 101 coordination procedure, affected licensees are given 30 days to respond to the notification. The FCC Order denying SBE's request for delay noted these procedures would provide ample opportunity for stations to provide data missing in the FCC database. The National Spectrum Managers Association, in its opposition to SBE's request, noted that, "to address the possibility of there being a BAS path missing entirely from both the ULS and industry databases, coordinators could send coordination notifications to all broadcasters in the geographic area of interest, with the expectation that those having BAS facilities not accounted for in the analysis would respond accordingly." In reply comments, the FCC Order said SBE asserted "coordinators should bear the burden of doing the analysis before notification, and not rely on licensee response to 'set things right.'" It noted, "SBE objects to sending notifications to every broadcaster in a market to address BAS paths missing from ULS and industry databases, as suggested by NSMA, because the requisite review and analysis to determine the effect of proposed facilities on BAS facilities would place a massive and completely unfair burden on broadcasters."

While application fees will apply, the FCC Order said that, "In order to encourage BAS licensees to file applications for modification where needed to complete receive site data where it is missing in the ULS, we will allow the filing of such applications without frequency coordination, provided the application supplies only missing receive site data. Receive site data may include parameters such as site geographic coordinates, site elevation above mean sea level, and antenna height, beamwidth, gain, manufacturer, and model number. Further, the application must include a showing demonstrating that the station was licensed at a time when receive site information was not required, or documenting that the information now missing was previously licensed or provided under application to the FCC.31 The information provided must also be consistent with any data already in the database, such as transmit azimuth or receive site data."

Many questions remain about how BAS coordination will be handled under the new rules. SBE coordination committees could continue to coordinate BAS licenses, but the path analysis and notification requirements may make it difficult for them to continue to do this on a volunteer basis. From the comments filed in the proceeding, it is clear non-broadcast frequency coordinators are interested in BAS coordination. However, these coordinators may not have access to the local databases kept by local coordinators that contain data that was missing from earlier FCC databases. An accurate database is needed regardless of who does the coordination. For this reason, to be sure existing paths are protected, all broadcasters should make sure the ULS database listings for their BAS licenses are accurate and complete. If not, they should be corrected as soon as possible, even though an application fee will have to be paid.