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Mutually-Exclusive (MX) LFPM Application Process

    March 2024 — If your 2023 LPFM application hasn’t been accepted for filing or granted yet, it might be too close[1] to other LPFM applications, which we sometimes call “short spaced”. That makes it mutually exclusive (MX) with one or more other LPFM applications in your MX group, which must be resolved before the FCC will grant those applications. Other common reasons for delay are an informal objection filed against your application, or the FCC needs time to coordinate with Mexico or Canada.

    The FCC recently published the first in a series of notices about mutually-exclusive applications. Check the table in DA 24-256 part 2 to see if your application is MXed, where you’ll also discover the other applicants in your MX group. MX procedures and explanations for this phase are in part 1 and in the February notice DA 24-92. Those documents are authoritative. This article is simplified, and we are not lawyers and this is not legal advice. The MX resolution process is often cooperative and straightforward, but can be a complex stew of interacting regulations, corner cases, processing guidelines, and aggression.

    If we helped you file your LPFM application, you already know if you’re MXed, and if you are in our Torchbearer program, we’ve also shared our (ongoing) analysis of your situation and your options.

    MX resolution has 2 phases — voluntary and not so voluntary.

    Voluntary Settlement Phase

    Until May 14, 2024, MXed applicants may resolve their situations without the time delay and stress of the points-driven less-voluntary phase. This is by far the fastest way to get on the air!

    During this phase, you can:

    • request that your application be withdrawn
    • file an amendment to change location and/or change frequency to remove short-spacing[1] conflicts with all other members of your MX group
    • propose a universal settlement where every applicant in your group ratifies a common agreement which resolves everything using combinations of technical modifications and withdrawals.
    • amendments often require specific affidavits as described in DA 24-256.

    Other things to know:

    • time-sharing proposals may not be filed at this time
    • comparative points claims haven’t been evaluated by the FCC, and do not affect this phase
    • many things can be done unilaterally, so the term settlement is confusing, but remember that amendments often require affidavits as described in DA 24-256
    • technical amendments may propose moving up to 11.2 km as long as localism and spacing requirements are still met
    • technical amendments can request changing frequency by 1, 2, 3, 53 or 54 channels — non-adjacent channel changes are prohibited for now
    • MXed applications have not been fully analyzed for acceptability, and may yet contain flaws
    • proposals must result in the MX group getting smaller, and cannot make it worse
    • withdrawals and technical changes may be filed after May 14 but may be processed slower
    • follow the instructions in DA 24-256 very carefully

    An MX group is settled when every applicant remaining is fully-spaced from all other applicants.

    Unresolved MX Groups

    Applicants which are part of unresolved MX groups after May 14th enter less-voluntary and then involuntary resolution phases. The clocks begin at different times for different MX groups, as announced in a series of tentative selectee public notices (TSPN) which we speculate may be released starting as early as June, and continuing over the next year or two.

    Since we haven’t seen an LPFM-class-of-2023 notice yet, the following information is speculative.

    Less-voluntary Settlement Phase

    The number of comparative points that you claimed on your LPFM application now determines whether you survive or get dismissed. The FCC will deduct points if your application has not sufficiently justified them! You could get dismissed, so points-reinforcement amendments should be filed prior to this time.

    MX groups will be announced in a series of what we call tentative selectee public notices. The tentative selectees of an MX group are the 3 oldest applicants among those tied for the maximum number of points held in that group. If nothing happens during the 90 days after your notice, then the tentative selectees will become the actual selectees, and everyone else in your group will be dismissed.

    When your group is first announced, if you aren’t tied for the maximum number of points in the group, your application will be dismissed. You should have one opportunity to come back from that, and you’ll want experienced assistance.

    If your application is in the tie for maximum points, regardless of whether you’re also a tentative selectee, your application will be accepted for filing, opening it to petitions. This is often where ugly and aggressive petitions emerge from applicants trying to kill each others’ applications.

    Suppose your MX group’s members have 4, 4, 4, 4 and 3 points. The FCC will dismiss the 3-point group. If 2 of the 4’s propose voluntary time sharing (up to 3-way time sharing may be proposed), the points will be (4+4)=8, 4, 4  and the time-share combination will win. Only tied-for-maximum-points groups can combine points.

    During the 90 days following your notice, you can propose up to 3-way voluntary time sharing with the other applicants in your group, except the dismissed ones. You can also make very flexible technical amendments, like non-adjacent channel changes, to exit from or resolve the group.

    Applicants tied for the maximum points within a group will have 90 days to propose time sharing and other remedies. Applicants with fewer than the maximum points will be dismissed, and have one chance to survive by filing a petition.

    Involuntary Settlement

    If there’s no settlement after 90 days, the oldest 3 applicants of those tied for the maximum points, the tentative selectees, will be granted an involuntary non-renewable three-way time-share and the younger applicants will be dismissed.



    Although the upcoming announcements will differ due to intervening changes in LPFM rules, this sample historical announcement from the 2013 window may be informative.


    [1] LPFMs on the same channel must be 24km or further apart, or 14km apart if they are on channels next to each other on the dial. Relocation up to 11.2 km is normally allowed.