Whoever said, “the more things change, the more they
remain the same,” must have had the FCC in mind. More than 50
years ago, Form 301 was thin and did not demand much in the way of
exhibits. Today, Form 301, still thin and demanding little in the
way of exhibits, requires many statements of fact that must be
backed up by full engineering analysis so that exhibits can be
presented on demand. However, today's Form 301 must be filed
It is also illuminating to compare the Commission's present day
paperwork requirements with those of 50 years ago. Nowadays, there
are more forms to be completed, and the Commission is requesting
data in forms that are more examiner-convenient than the original
Form 301. I think the latter was designed to get the information
displayed in a relatively easy manner for the applicant without
much consideration for the examining engineer.
In this article we're going to run through the engineering
process of getting a license for a broadcast station and talk about
the new electronic filing forms. It is important to bear in mind
that, apart from technical matters, the FCC has sticky fingers and
expects its palm to be greased with every application, using Form
159 when sending cash, and 175 in the cases of auctions. However,
these forms are best left in the hands of the attorneys.
Getting a construction permit
In the interest of correctness, I like to emphasize the fact
that the first step in building a broadcast station is obtaining a
Construction Permit (CP). Too many times we find the expression
“getting a license” is used in the press and the daily
papers. That's fine for non-technical people, but “getting a
license” is very different from “getting a CP,”
and it has a different meaning.
Before starting work on a new broadcast application, it is
important to check with the FCC to be sure that the appropriate
window will be open. The Commission tends to require windows for
almost everything; perhaps in an effort to control workflow to
their overloaded engineers.
At the same time, be sure that a current application form is
used. Many changes are being made. Sometimes it seems that monthly
changes are occurring, and it's important to check expiration
dates. The current OMB approval data appears in the upper
right-hand corner. The expiration data appears in the bottom right
corner. Also be sure to use the latest rules; these seem to change
At the time of writing this, the old AM DA proof of Performance
Rules apply. However, there is a Notice of Proposed Rule Making
(NPRM) proposing some substantial changes and reduction in required
field work. By now, the new Rules may be in force.
The first step towards a CP is finding a frequency, unless it is
intended to file on an existing station or an identified frequency.
The next step is obtaining and reading a copy of CFR 47, the FCC
Rules and Regulations. Although most of the rules governing the
completion of Form 301 can be found in Part 73 of the Rules, there
are a few paragraphs in other sections of CFR 47 that require
reference prior to submitting the application.
Today's FCC will not accept Form 301 on paper. The filing must
be electronic. This means that the filing is more of a statement of
intent than a technical document, as in the old days when
voluminous documentation had to be submitted. It seems that with
the advent of Docket 80-90, the FCC has become window oriented. It
is almost impossible now to file any application unless the
appropriate window is open, and it is essential to keep an eye on
In my opinion, the new engineering data portions of Form 301 are
important improvements to the Form, although they can be a
dangerous trap for a careless filer. Almost every page of the Form
calls for the repetition of technical data entered on previous
pages. It is easy to make a typographical error from page to page,
with disastrous consequences: any inconsistency will result in
return of the application.
On the old Forms antenna data was requested once, but on the new
forms it seems to be required frequently, and every entry is a
possible source of error and rejection. Non-DA and day and night
directional operation data are requested on separate pages, for a
total of 10. This feature is a great improvement on the old
In the case of un-tamable directional antennas, augmentation
data are requested and clearly outlined. This format makes the FCC
engineer's job a lot easier, but it puts more stress on the
applicant engineer because of the earlier mentioned risk of
conflicting entries and consequent dismissal. In lieu of presenting
pages of expensive drafting work to demonstrate that the system
will work as proposed, many boxes must be checked yes or no, and
other boxes show compliance with parts of Part 73.
The page requesting data on operation during critical hours is a
good idea. It can be easy to forget that such things as critical
hour operation have to be considered when racing against time. I
missed a critical hours check on a Form 301 about 40 years ago. The
critical hours section would have prevented my embarrassment, and I
hope it will save engineers in the future. It's very easy to say
that a good engineer would think of it; but sometimes in a rush
things are overlooked until too late.
Form 301 FM
Form 301 for FM requires two pages of technical information and
the checking of about ten boxes to show compliance with several
paragraphs of Part 73 and other parts.
Unlike AM DA applications, FM DA data is not supplied with Form
301FM. Instead, the desired relative fields are listed (after
consultation with the antenna supplier to ensure that they produce
a DA with the required pattern), and the application is based on
When the CP is issued and equipment ordered, the antenna
supplier runs a pattern proof on the actual antenna and/or a scale
model. This material is filed with Form 302FM when making
application for the station license, in much the same manner as AM
DA license application is filed. The main difference is that, in
the case of FM DAs, the FCC accepts the promise of the proposed DA
pattern, avoiding checking the whole application.
Licensing AM DAs involves making a number of radial measurements
to demonstrate that the promised pattern has been achieved and that
the antenna is operating as promised. This is known as the Proof of
Performance, and it takes weeks to make and analyze the radials
runs and produce the exhibits the FCC needs. The AM Proof of
Performance is expensive and time consuming. The FM DA testing
proof is not as costly as for AM DAs.
Barring conflicting applications, errors, petitions to deny or
other problems, the application is accepted. One then begins to
wait, and wait, and wait.
E-mail John at email@example.com.
Note: Form 301 is used as a generic term in this article, the
same things apply for all versions of Form 340 (NCE) as well.