FCC Solicits Public Comment Regarding Elimination of Common Broadcast Tower Rule

Submitted by Todd Urick on Tue, 11/05/2019 - 20:11

The FCC has released Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, MB Docket No. 19-282, for comment on revising Sections 73.239 and 73.635 of the Commission's rules concerning use of common antenna sites.  These rules allow for access to common FM radio and TV antenna sites.  The rules, going back to the 1940's, prohibit the grant or renewal of a license for an FM or TV station if that licensee/tower owner monopolizes a key site in a very suitable area but does not make it available for use by other broadcasters.

The FCC believes the broadcast marketplace has evolved substantially since 1945, with multiple sites developing in choice areas within each market, and the vast majority of sites owned by non-broadcast entities.  The Commission, here, is now mulling if these rules are still needed.

Common Frequency might agree with the Commission's sentiment -- there there has been a proliferation of broadcast sites since the 1940.  Common Frequency's chief concern, however, has less to do with the rule, but for tower ownership in general.  There has been a consolidation of tower/wireless sites in the last decade by non-broadcast entities like American Tower, SBA, and Crown Castle, which in some places have monopolized the tower supply.  The issue with this is that the average market value of sites has pushed to premium-rent levels everywhere because competition has been eliminated.  Additionally, in certain rural areas, there may be one site owned by a broadcaster or a large tower corporation that might command unsustainable rent.  While wireless cellular telephone outfits may able to afford these rents, non-commercial entities may not.

Commenting due dates for this rulemakings via FCC ECFS are: 

NPRM Comment Date: December 6, 2019

NPRM Reply Comment Date: December 23, 2019

Link to rulemaking