On May 1, the FCC’s Media and Wireless Bureaus granted a request filed by Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth attorneys Frank Montero and Keenan Adamchak on behalf of the Puerto Rico Broadcasters Association (PRBA) to waive the FCC’s rules limiting the scope of settlements involving mutually exclusive (MX) FM translator applications filed in the Auction 100 MX filing window. The Bureaus had opened a settlement window running through June 14, 2018, during which Auction 100 MX applicants (that is applications that conflict with each other and cannot both be granted without some modification to remove the technical conflict) can file technical amendments to resolve their mutual exclusivities.

The FCC rules place limits on the settlements that can be negotiated by MX applicants for FM translator frequencies. Specifically, Section 74.1233(a) of the FCC’s rules limit the resolution of such conflicts to “minor” amendments which are changes to first, second, or third adjacent channels, or to an intermediate frequency channel.

In its filed request on behalf of the Puerto Rico Broadcasters, Montero and Adamchak argued that the damage caused by Hurricanes Maria and Irma resulted in broadcasters expending considerable resources in restoring broadcast services. Accordingly, the broadcasters in Puerto Rico lacked the resources to settle these conflicted applications within the current “minor” amendment confines of the rule. As such, they requested that the FCC permit Puerto Rico applicants to be allowed to settle conflicts with amendments to any available channel even if not “minor,” provided such amendments did not cause interference to existing or proposed FM stations and complied with the FCC’s coverage requirements for FM translators.

The FCC’s Public Notice states that such waiver requests serve the public interest “by assisting the broadcasting industry to rebuild following the hurricanes and by ensuring that robust radio coverage is provided in areas prone to severe hurricanes.”

Applicants granted waivers of Section 74.1233(a), however, must still comply with all other requirements for technical amendments, and must file their technical amendments by the end of the MX settlement window on June 14.