Radio Station License Renewals Ahoy

This spring sees the beginning of the FCC’s license-renewal cycle for radio stations. Stations in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia must begin running license-renewal announcements next month, and file their formal paperwork to renew station licenses by June. (Other states will follow in batches through the next three years – find out the license-renewal deadlines for radio stations in your state in this FCC document.).
Although the license-renewal process has long been pretty much a pro forma exercise, it does provide an opportunity for the listening public to examine and critique the performance of their local radio stations.
The FCC is loathe to revoke a station’s license due to public complaints, but that hasn’t stopped many media reform organizations from challenging stations’ commitments to public service and using the opportunity to educate the public at large about what stations could be doing to serve the public that they are not.
If you are interested in providing the FCC with feedback on how your local stations have served (or disserved) your community during the license renewal period, the first place to start is by inspecting a station’s public file. This file must be publicly accessible during business hours and includes several documents relating to the station’s technical operation, employment, and programming.
Over the last year, an average of one broadcaster per month has been fined for either failing to allow inspection of a station’s public file or for maintaining incomplete records.
Given that the license-renewal process only comes around every eight years, every opportunity the public has to provide feedback on the performance of broadcasters is important. Although the license-renewal process is supposed to be short and superficial, it never hurts to remind stations that listeners mean more than ratings numbers.