January 2024 –
Some LPFM applications cannot all be granted consistent with the Commission’s technical rules because they requested locations and frequencies too close to one another, and are considered “mutually exclusive” (MXed). An MX group consists of all applications which are MXed to at least one other application in the group. The MX resolution process can be a very complex stew of interacting regulations, corner cases, and processing guidelines. This preview is both speculative and oversimplified, and we are not lawyers and this is not legal advice.
Simplistically, MX resolution has 2 phases — voluntary and involuntary.
Voluntary Settlement Phase (maybe 60 days starting in February)
First is a voluntary settlement phase where applicants try to settle things among themselves. Voluntary settlements and modifications are by far the fastest way to get on the air!
An MX group would be considered settled if every applicant remaining MXed in the group (regardless of their points!) is a signatory to proposed voluntary time-sharing agreements by the end of the settlement period. As part of this process, applicants often find technical methods (changing channel or location) to stop being MXed and become singletons, and sometimes applicants withdraw. Dog-eat-dog petition wars sometimes cause the FCC to cancel LPFM applications.
A powerful type of settlement is the universal settlement, where every MXed applicant in a group ratifies a common agreement which resolves everything using combinations of technical modifications, withdrawals, and time-share proposals. Universal settlements may even be accepted after the voluntary settlement phase is technically over.
We speculate that a 60-day settlement phase will begin in early February. We anticipate an announcement from the FCC at the end of January which will list every MX group (applications too close in frequency and location, aka “short spaced”, to be simultaneously granted). It’ll probably be similar to the analogous announcement from the recent NCE window:
- Applications will not have been fully analyzed for acceptability yet, and may contain flaws.
- Applicants’ comparative points claims are not used at this point.
- MX group settlements will be solicited for a period of perhaps 60 days. Settlements can include time-share proposals and/or withdrawals and/or technical changes (frequency, location) which separate applications from the MX group.
- Technical changes must follow the LPFM rules for minor modifications, however it is not impossible that some additional technical leeway will be available.
- Settlements can include time-share proposals between groups with different numbers of points, so if a group contains one 4-point and one 3-point applicant, they can propose a 2-way time share and both groups get stations. Without the settlement, the FCC will eventually dismiss the 3-point applicant and declare the 4-pointer as the winner.
Involuntary Settlement Phase
Unresolved MXs at the end of the voluntary-settlement period become candidates for involuntary resolution, where the FCC decides the outcome based on “points”, organizational age, and time-sharing-proposal point aggregation.
Tentative resolutions of unsettled MX groups might be announced as early as April and continue over the next year or two (historical announcement from the 2013 window). Roughly speaking, applications claiming less than the maximum number of points in a group, will be dismissed. Up to 3 applicants tied for the maximum number of points will become tentative selectees, and any remaining applicants with maximum points but having younger organizations, will also be dismissed. Applicants tied with the maximum number of points in a group may propose up to 3-way time-sharing agreements, in which case their points add together. It’s worth a few examples.
Suppose a MX group’s members have 5 5 5 5 and 4 points. The FCC will choose the three oldest 5-point groups, and dismiss the remaining 5 and 4-point groups. If 2 of the 5’s propose time sharing, the points will be (5+5)=10 5 5 4 and the time-share group will win. Only maximum-points groups can combine points, so if a 5 and 4 point group propose a time-share, they still only have 5 points — (5+4)=5.
The comparative winners are called tentative selectees. When tentative selectees for an MX group are announced, their applications become “Accepted for Filing” and subject to petitions for (normally) 30 days. Applications dismissed as part of a tentative resolution may have a chance to submit an amendment (which could include relocating or changing channel) or Petition for Reconsideration.
 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. Relocations of up to 11.2km are normally allowed, with some exceptions.