• From: "John Willkie" <johnwillkie@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sat, 20 Dec 2008 19:25:25 -0800


"Renewal expectancy" was included in the 1996 Comm Act rewrite that you
periodically rail against.

The term hasn't actually been interpreted yet, since it hasn't come into
effect for broadcast television stations.  However, it does mean that
broadcasters will be able to amortize on their financial statements the
value of their license, which will tend to increase reported profits for
those who choose to do so.

And, yes, the renewal terms have changed since 1986, since postcard renewals
hadn't really gone into effect (for all states, anyway) by that time.
License terms have been extended from three years to 5, then to seven years
(radio is now ten years.)

Community "ascertainment" is basically dead, and the only PSAs that I see
routinely these days are "sponsored PSAs" and the "CBS Cares" and "You ought
to know" niceties on NBC.  I suspect that there are stations still routinely
producing and airing PSAs, but I don't even see ones from the AdCouncil
these days.

Actually, license renewals didn't bring any money into the FCC until the
mid-1980's; the costs all went to ascertainment and attorneys to file
sometimes foot-high renewal applications.  Now, it's a post card.  But,
there are significant license renewal fees, and the "spectrum use fee" which
is more than $10,000 per year per station.  So, you've got it upside down
about "that sort of requirement" bringing enough money into the FCC's

Simply said, renewal expectancy means that stations can expect to have their
license renewed unless they royally screw up.  It's actually been the case
since the 1930's -- with the "community based"/shakedowns virtually always
nothing more than a reason to pay your attorney big sums of money, and to
pay Pluria Marshall and the National Black Media Coalition (among others)
big sums to go away.  (I've had some interesting phone conversations with

I was asked by a client in the mid-1980's to compile a list of all the radio
"interim operating authorities" that had existed in the history of the FCC.
These were granted when a licensee is found to be unfit to operate a
station.  An interim operator is selected in a simple process, while the FCC
decides who will have the standard license.  (As of the 1960's, in the wake
of the WHDH/Boston case, to streamline things, an entity could only apply
for interim or permanent authority, not both.)

My client and her partner had applied for interim operating authority for
KIFM, whose operator had been found to have lied to the FCC repeatedly.
They were seeking funding and their potential lenders were asking how long
it would take to select a "permanent" operator.  To eliminate their only
remaining competitor, they took on another partner.  All told, they paid
less than $2,000 to prepare and file their application, then more than a bit
to hire an attorney friend of mine (who never even took me out to lunch.)

I was able -- after much manual- and foot-work; these things aren't recorded
in any database at the commission -- to come up with 38 radio interim
operators. The shortest period was about two years, the longest about a
dozen.  I know of no more than a dozen TV interim operations.  (Since that
time, Henry B. Serafin lost his AM station due to lying, cheating in on-air
contests, and blatant racism in hiring, and the RKO-TV hammer finally came

So, there were more than 100,000 renewal applications filed with the FCC
over the years, and only about 50 times were stations lost.  "Renewal
expectancy" is shortly to become de jure for TV, where it was once merely
"de facto."

Oh, and Bill Walton's brother Mark Walton headed one of the applicants for
the full license of KIFM, and he fought to merge all the applicants to avoid
lengthy and basically foolish comparative hearings.  As a result, my friend
from college Mary Sorrentino and her two partners only were able to operate
KIFM for less than 6 years.  During which time she pioneered the "Cool Jazz"
format, also known here now as "Jazz San Diego Style."  To me, that term is
an insult to Jazz and San Diego, but it's much different than her format
these days.  CBS now owns the station.

John Willkie

-----Mensaje original-----
De: opendtv-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:opendtv-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx] En
nombre de Cliff Benham
Enviado el: Saturday, December 20, 2008 5:39 PM
Para: opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Asunto: [opendtv] Re: STATEWIDE DTV TEST

John Willkie wrote:
Before, renewals under the law, was a hit or miss (admittedly,
> very few stations have ever had their renewal application denied.)
> Renewal expectancy makes it harder to deny a renewal.  The content offered
> by this "umbilical" could change, though.

Have FCC license renewal requirements changed since 1986? Before that 
time, FCC licenses were issued based on what the station committed to do 
"in the interest, convenience and necessity" of the public, major tenets 
of the Communications Act of 1934.

Having worked for a TV station in the 60s that got it's initial license 
by making a huge public service commitment to the community the mainstay 
of it's license request, I experienced what that commitment meant.

The day and night production crews stayed busy all the time producing 
and recording those public affairs programs.

Apparently that sort of requirement doesn't bring enough money into the 
FCC coffers these days.

What does 'renewal expectancy' mean?

I spent just 5 minutes Googling the term and my immediate impression is 
that it seems to apply to licensees who have got their spectrum by 
bidding on it and winning it at $ubstantial co$t. The types of licenses 
mentioned were for cellular companies, MVPDs, and data distributors.

Free, over the air broadcast licenses were not mentioned directly in 
what I read, but perhaps, TV becoming digital can be interpreted as data 

My immediate impression of 'renewal expectancy' is that since the 
license holder was the highest bidder, he will have to ante up much more 
money to the commission in the future to keep it. Apparently, service to 
the community is no longer an important part of license renewal, just 
how much money the FCC can grab from it's "customers".
i.e., the more they pay, the greater their 'renewal expectancy'.

As I recently said, now, it's just about the money.

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