In an attempt to get moving on auctions of hundreds of new FM licenses, the
Federal Communications Commission ruled Thursday that noncommercial broadcasters
can't apply for channels outside of spectrum reserved for educational stations
if commercial broadcasters also seek allotments on those frequencies.
If the decision withstands possible court challenges, the ruling will finally
allow the FCC to move forward with planned auctions of FM stations, as well as
sales for low-power TV and translator permits.
Uncertainty over dealing with competing applications between commercial
broadcasters, which must resolve competing applications through auctions, and
noncommercial broadcasters has stalled the addition of new stations to the dial
since July 2001, when federal judges struck down rules requiring noncommercial
applicants to bid on spectrum located outside of reserved bands if commercial
operators also wanted the channels.
The FCC noted, however, that it will increase opportunities for reserving FM
and TV channels for noncommercial users.
Regarding the AM dial, the agency also said it would allow engineering solutions
between competing applicants.