But what about the new Section 307(b) policies?

The Second Report and Order (Second R&O) in the rural radio proceeding has been published in the Federal Register. According to the notice as it appeared in the Register, the new rules will become effective on May 6, 2011, except for newly-revised Section 73.7000. (That section, which relates primarily to Native American Tribal factors, entails certain “information collections” that must first be approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).)

For many broadcasters, though, the real attention-grabber of the Second R&O was not the rule changes it effected, but rather its overhaul of Section 307(b) policies. Perhaps even more important were the new certification requirements imposed on community-of-license-change proponents as a result of that overhaul.

So the real questions are: when do the new Section 307(b) policies become effective, and when will pending proposals have to be amended to include the new 307(b) certifications?

The answer to the latter question is a piece of cake. Since the new certifications constitute “information collections” subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA), they must go through the standard PRA drill. We noted this back when the Second R&O was first released, and we followed up with a report on the official commencement of the PRA process in March.

But what about the underlying 307(b) policies? Are they in effect now or not? 

The answer to that isn’t clear.

That’s because the Federal Register publication makes no reference to any effective date for the policies.  Oops.  As a practical matter, though, the precise effective date of the new policies is probably immaterial. Even if the policies are not now in effect, the Audio Division’s processing staff is not likely to take any actions inconsistent with the announced policies. So if you’ve got an application on file that will clearly not make the grade once it comes time to file the new 307(b) certifications, you probably shouldn’t hold out any hope of a grant between now and then.

But let’s look on the bright side. If you’ve got an application pending that is (or should be) grantable under the new policies, do you have to wait for the certifications to clear the OMB PRA review process before you can expect action? Good news. The answer is that you can probably file your certifications now as an amendment to your application. You can use the Second R&O as a guide relative to the analyses you would need to perform in order to support a proper certification. Include a request that the staff go ahead and process the application. We understand that, given those circumstances, the Audio Division may be inclined to move things along now rather than wait for completion of OMB review. 

Of course, the number of applicants able to take advantage of this opportunity is probably pretty limited, but if there are any, they may wish to act now.