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FCC to allow certain NCE applicants to apply for broadcast licenses as commercial stations

The Federal Communications Commission released this month to the public a September decision to permit a limited group of parties seeking noncommercial educational (NCE) TV and radio stations an opportunity to amend previously submitted applications to that of a commercial station.

The move, laid out in the commission’s Memorandum Opinion and Third Order on Reconsideration released Dec. 2, allows these parties to sidestep FCC rules that otherwise would have prevented them from being considered for licenses.

The decision reverses a previous commission action dismissing these applications. In its memorandum, the FCC said it was “persuaded that the unfairness of immediate dismissal” to this limited number of NCE applicants outweighed the delay to applicants seeking commercial stations that are mutually exclusive to the NCE applicants.

The situation arose out of the way in which the commission treats applicants for NCE service and commercial broadcast service. NCE applicants may apply for spectrum reserved for noncommercial educational service or for non-reserved spectrum. However, those applicants choosing to apply for non-reserved spectrum would automatically have their applications dismissed when they were mutually exclusive with applications for commercial stations.

This policy, however, was established after the small group of NCE applicants considered in the most recent FCC action had filed their applications. The decision impacts about 19 mixed groups of mutually exclusive applications for such non-reserved channels, including four TV mixed groups.

Following the release of the order, the Media Bureau will announce an amendment window to allow the limited number of applicants in these cases to apply for a commercial station, according to the order. After the closing of the window, any remaining NCE application that’s mutually exclusive with an application for a commercial station will be dismissed with prejudice, the commission said.

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