Revised broadcast renewal clears OMB hurdle, now ready for first round of radio renewals

The recently revised broadcast license renewal form (FCC Form 303-S) has received the formal blessing of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) – which means that it’s now just about ready for use by radio licensees whose renewals are due by June 1. (That would be licensees in Maryland, the District of Columbia, Virginia and West Virginia.) OMB signed off on the updated form on February 2 (a scant week after the close of the comment period); that approval has now been published in the Federal Register. Following a 30-day post-publication waiting period, the revised form will officially be “effective”.

The limited materials generated in connection with the OMB review process do contain a couple of items worthy of mention.

First, the FCC’s “supporting statement” confirms our post from last September relative to the basis for the new certification about non-operation. In its statement the Commission specifically quotes from a 2001 decision holding that a “licensee will face a very heavy burden in demonstrating that it has served the public interest where it has remained silent for most or all of the prior license term.” Since serving the public interest is a crucial component of the renewal process, prolonged failure to operate could be a serious impediment to renewal.

Second, our friend John Crigler (on behalf of a number of noncommercial broadcast organizations) filed comments suggesting that the new certification concerning non-discrimination in advertising contracts should include a “not applicable” option for noncoms. That would make sense because, by definition, noncommercial licensees can’t sell “advertising” and thus don’t have any “advertising” contracts to certify about. The Commission rejected that suggestion, however. It turns out (according to the Commission, at least) that when an NCE licensee indicates (in the first section of the form) that it’s noncommercial, the form will not display the advertising certification at all.

As noted, the revised form will be “effective” as of March 14, 2011, i.e., 30 days following Federal Register publication. Media Bureau officials have indicated that they’re planning to issue a public notice on or about that effective date to provide additional guidance for renewal applicants. Check back here for updates.