In November 2000 the Commission created a new FM channel
classification to join Classes A, B, B1, C, C1, C2 and C3. Use of the
new class - Class C-0 (C-Zero) - permits upgrades of existing stations
and new allocations based on the reduced spacing protections, which
will apply when Class C stations are converted to Class C-0.
FM Class C is designed for regional use by stations operating with
100kW at up to 600 meters (about 2,000 feet) antenna height above
average terrain. Since all FM channels are, for allocation purposes,
protected to the maximum potential facilities for their class, full
Class C channels are treated for interference-protection purposes as if
they are being used (or, in the case of vacant channels, will be used)
However, few Class C stations operate with such maximum facilities.
Thus, Class C stations have been able to operate at as little as 300
meters and still lay claim to full Class C protection. The Commission
decided to recover the resulting unused FM spectrum by creating the
intermediate Class C-0.
The creation of the new class has multiple potential effects on
existing licensees. Stations operating on full Class C channels with
antenna heights of 450 meters or less are subject to downgrading if
another station files a channel allotment proposal that would
necessitate the downgrading of the existing full Class C station to C-0
Such downgrading is not automatic. The proponent of the downgrading
must certify that no alternate channel is available to permit the
service it is proposing. The Commission then issues a show cause
order directed to the affected Class C licensee, giving it 30 days in
which to express, in writing, its intention to seek an upgrade of its
facilities to preserve its Class C status. The affected licensee then
has 180 days to file an application to increase its height above 450
meters. After approval, the licensee has three years in which to
construct its full Class C facilities. The affected licensee could also
argue that the initial downgrading proposal does not conform to the
rules, or that another channel could be used to achieve the desired
The new class may be useful to licensees who see the possibility of
improving their facilities or adding a new channel into a desired
community. However, a recalcitrant full Class C licensee would likely
be able to stall such an effort for several years by availing itself of
the procedural rights described above.
Two notes: First, vacant Class C allotments are preserved against
reclassification, but pending applications for full Class C allotments
that propose antenna heights of 450 meters or less, are being
downgraded to Class C-0 status; second, while new rulemaking proposals
may invoke Class C-0, counter-proposals filed in response to notices of
proposed rulemaking may not rely on Class C-0 possibilities.
NCE commercialization issues
In a September decision by the Enforcement Bureau, the FCC
admonished a noncommercial FM station in Alabama for broadcasting
commercial matter in violation of Section 399B of the Communications
Act, which prohibits the use of underwriting announcements to promote
the contributor's products, services or business. Acknowledgments may
only include identifying information about the contributor.
The Commission found that language that stated that the sponsor's
dealers “usually deal only with America's largest
importers” constituted a promotion because it distinguished the
underwriter from competitors. Similarly, references to an underwriter's
inventory of “name-brand” musical instruments were deemed
promotional because the reference casts the product in a favorable
Also found to be prohibitively promotional were a reference to an
underwriter's having “kept up with changing technology” and
a description of a service as “convenient.”
The Commission also noted that the longer it takes in the
underwriter announcement to identify the underwriters, the more likely
it is that the announcement will be found to be a promotional
The FCC will not seek review by the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate
the EEO rules that were declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Court of
Appeals in the District of Columbia in January. The Commission's
position is that it will try to revise its earlier rules to meet the
concerns of the Court. That proceeding, however, has not yet begun.
While two public interests have filed appeals on their own, the chances
that the Supreme Court will take the case without the FCC's
participation are very slim.
Harry Martin is an attorney with Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth,
PLC., Arlington, VA. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
February 1, 2002 is the deadline for biennial ownership reports for
broadcast stations in Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi,
Nebraska, New Jersey, New York and Oklahoma.