FCC clamps down on Longley-Rice

October 1, 2002


In a decision that has drawn relatively little attention, the FCCimposed significant restrictions on the use of the Longley-Rice modelfor predicting 70dBu city-grade coverage for FM stations.

Longley-Rice is commonly used when the standard prediction method,using the FCC's F(50,50) curves referred to in Section 73.313(c) of therules, shows a shortfall in city-grade coverage. In recent years, FMallotment rule makings, particularly those involving multiplecommunities, have been predicated on the petitioner's plan to choose asite as close as possible to a major population center based on the useof Longley-Rice. For this reason, the staff's decision has far-reaching implications for move-ins, drop-ins and changes in thecommunity of license. The ruling will also restrict the ability ofstations to reach larger communities through minor change applicationsthat do not require a rule making. One-step upgrade applications aresimilarly affected.

To use the Longley-Rice prediction method, an applicant must showthat the terrain being studied departs widely from the average terrainassumed for the F(50,50) propagation curves. In the past, the FCC hadnever defined the term “departs widely.” This permitted useof the technically liberal Longley-Rice method for demonstrating citycoverage in almost any terrain environment.

In a decision issued Aug. 9, the Commission said that “departswidely” means terrain must vary by 20 meters or less, or 100meters or more from the 50-meter “delta h” standard (theaverage value for terrain in the United States, according to the FCC)that is used in determining terrain roughness along a radial. In thecase before the Commission, the “delta h” terrain roughnessvalues ranged from 39.7 to 45.0 meters. This was insufficient towarrant use of the Longley-Rice alternate prediction method, the agencysaid, and the applicant was ordered to amend or face dismissal.

While finally setting a clear standard as to when the Longley-Ricecontour prediction method will be acceptable, this decision is likelyto be appealed given the disruption it will cause to the upgrade andmove-in plans of many FM licensees.

Assignment and transfer standards

In August, the FCC decided to relax its contract disclosurerequirements for Forms 314, 315 and 316 (assignments and transferapplications) to permit applicants to exclude from their applicationscontract attachments that are not material to the FCC's analysis of thetransaction, such as equipment inventories, lists of station contracts,descriptions of station real estate and copies of FCC licenses.Important ancillary agreements such as LMAs, options, notes andsecurity agreements must still be submitted, however.

While the FCC is drafting new instructions and certifications forFCC Forms 314, 315 and 316, the agency is giving buyers and sellersdiscretion in terms of what is relevant. Nevertheless, anything that isomitted from a sale contract must be described in an exhibit to theapplication and an explanation as to why it is not relevant must beprovided.

Pending adoption of new forms:

  • Applicants who submit a complete and final copy of a sales contract,including all exhibits and attachments, may respond “yes”to the relevant certification question.

  • Applicants who choose to omit certain transaction documents thatthey believe are not material for Commission processing purposes mustrespond “no” to the relevant question on the FCC form.These applicants must also submit an exhibit describing each of theomitted documents, stating the specific reason for the omission and thebasis for the determination that the omitted documentation is notmaterial to the Commission's consideration of the application.

Political advertising disclosure

The Commission's political broadcasting rules require that stationssupply candidates with all pertinent information about discountprivileges available to commercial advertisers, including the lowestunit charges for the different classes of time sold by the station.This can be accomplished by providing the candidates with a writtendisclosure statement.


Martin is an attorney with Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, PLC.,Arlington, VA. E-mail martin@fhhlaw.com.

Dateline:

On Oct. 10, radio stations must place in their public filesquarterly lists of community issues and the programs broadcast inresponse during the quarter ending Sept. 30.



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