SYRACUSE -- During part of October and November, the FCC provided community-based organizations with a long-awaited chance to apply for licenses to launch new low-power FM (LPFM) radio stations. Nationwide, thousands of applications were submitted. In Syracuse, only two organizations submitted the necessary paperwork -- but earlier this week, the FCC said that's one too many.
That news came by way of the FCC releasing a nationwide list of "mutually exclusive" LPFM applications -- those where two or more parties have applied for the same license. According to that list, two organizations -- Syracuse Community Radio, Inc. (SCR) and Manlius Pebble Hill School, Inc. (MPH) -- have filed applications to build a radio station that would broadcast at 92.5FM.
There were no other "mutually exclusive" applications within the CNYRadio.com coverage area.
Whether by coincidence or due to technical reasons (we presume the latter -- LPFM applicants must demonstrate detailed research showing their proposed station will not interfere with any existing stations), both applications specify they would broadcast from an existing broadcast tower at the end of Old Stonehouse Road in DeWitt. MPH's application requests permission to broadcast at 72 watts effective radiated power from an antenna positioned 107.9 meters above average terrain. SCR's application calls for 113 watts from 86.9 meters. Despite the differences in the numbers, the FCC website shows either plan would provide a nearly-identical 60dBu signal contour (maps: MPH | SCR).
Assuming neither organization withdraws its application and the FCC finds no reason to automatically disqualify either applicant, the Commission will use a points-based system to evaluate the merits of each application. According to the Prometheus Radio Project, scores are based on a variety of factors such as each applicant's history in the community, their financial ability to build and maintain a radio station and how many hours of live, local programming they plan to broadcast each week. The FCC also evaluates localism by considering how far the transmitter is located from the applicant's offices, and where each organization's board members live in relation to the transmitter site (distances of less than 10 miles are favored for both criteria). Whichever application scores higher will be granted a construction permit.
Earlier this week, CNYRadio.com contacted both the contact representatives listed on each application. We provided both parties with the same list of questions. SCR responded; MPH did not.
On SCR's application, Danhauser is listed as both the Contact Representative and as SCR's Treasurer & Trustee.
CNYRadio: When Syracuse Community Radio filed for this application, did you suspect there might be any competition for the same license?
SCR: Yes, we assumed there would be a lot of interest as this was the first opportunity to apply for an LPFM in Syracuse. There are many groups in town we thought would be very motivated for this rare opportunity.
CNYRadio: What were your initial thoughts when you learned there is a competing application?
SCR: Surprise there was only one other application in the entire Syracuse metro and from an unexpected source.
CNYRadio: Have you reviewed the other party's application? (It is posted on the FCC website.) Do you believe your application is more qualified? Why or why not?
SCR: Technically, they are equal at this point.
CNYRadio: If you "win" the license, what are your plans for the station? What kind of programming do you plan to offer?
SCR: We want to introduce a more interactive community radio station that highlights the diverse creativity in Syracuse. This would include heavy doses of local music and art, highly local issues programming, strong youth involvement and as wide a variety of music as possible that isn’t already well covered.
CNYRadio: The FCC has said that competing parties could get things fast-tracked if they agreed to time-sharing of the license. Have you and the other party had any discussion about this possibility? Even if not, is it something in which you'd be interested (why/why not)?
SCR: I emailed the Manlius Pebble Hill School Head of School D. Scott Wiggins yesterday at his official school email ... to see what their goals are with LPFM and got a return voicemail from Susan Gullo that made it clear they had no idea what I was talking about. Then I called and spoke with the assistant to Scott Wiggins who also said they had no idea what I was referencing. In fact, they asked if I would be kind enough to send a copy of this FCC application I was mentioning.
CNYRadio: In addition to the initial investment to get a radio station built and signed-on, there are ongoing expenses to keep a station maintained and running. Can you comment as to how your organization plans to cover these expenses over the long term?
SCR: Our goal is to keep the overhead as low as possible so we have more creative freedom with the programming – we’re not shooting for a mass audience. But doing fundraisers and having a paid membership is key going forward, as will be programming grants. We’re really not expecting much sponsorship money.
CNYRadio: If the other party wins the license, do you plan to appeal? Do you have other plans (ie. internet radio, or perhaps try again for a different license)?
SCR: Worst case scenario we would have to share it with them.
CNYRadio: Is there anything else you'd like to add, which you feel may be beneficial for the story?
SCR: There is a strong art, music and activist community in Syracuse that are part of what some call the "Creative Class" that tend to be the innovators and experimenters that really make life here a lot more exciting. We want to give them a bigger stage to share their gifts and passions with the broader community. Our goal is to stretch the usual boundaries to get people thinking in new ways that might create new opportunities in the community.
Again, CNYRadio.com sent the same questions to MPH's Scott Wiggins on Thursday (within moments of the questions being sent to Danhauser), but he did not respond. With MPH now on holiday recess, we don't expect to receive any response until at least January 6. If/when a response is received, we'll follow-up accordingly here on CNYRadio.com.