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In American,
Canadian Canadians (french: Canadiens) are people identified with the country of Canada. This connection may be residential, legal, historical or cultural. For most Canadians, many (or all) of these connections exist and are collectively the source of ...

Canadian
, and Philippine broadcasting, a city of license or community of license is the community that a
radio station , Sweden , Norway Radio broadcasting is transmission of audio signal, audio (sound), sometimes with related metadata, by radio waves intended to reach a wide audience. In terrestrial radio broadcasting the radio waves are broadcast by a land-bas ...
or
television station A television station is a set of equipment managed by a business, organisation or other entity, such as an amateur television (ATV) operator, that transmits video content and audio content via radio waves directly from a transmitter In elect ...
is officially licensed to serve by that country's broadcast regulator. In North American broadcast law, the concept of ''community of license'' dates to the early days of
AM radio AM broadcasting is radio broadcasting , Sweden , Norway Radio broadcasting is transmission of audio signal, audio (sound), sometimes with related metadata Metadata is " data" that provides information about other data". In other words, it ...
broadcasting. The requirement that a broadcasting station operate a ''main studio'' within a prescribed distance of the community which the station is licensed to serve appears in U.S. law as early as 1939. Various specific obligations have been applied to broadcasters by governments to fulfill
public policy Public policy is a course of action created and/or enacted, typically by a government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a State (polity), state. In the case of its broad associa ...
objectives of broadcast localism, both in radio and later also in television, based on the legislative presumption that a broadcaster fills a similar role to that held by community newspaper publishers.


United States

In the United States, the
Communications Act of 1934 The Communications Act of 1934 is a United States federal law signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on June 19, 1934 and codified as Chapter 5 of Title 47 of the United States Code, et seq. The Act replaced the Federal Radio Commission wi ...
requires that "the Commission shall make such distribution of licenses, frequencies, hours of operation, and of ower among the several States and communities as to provide a fair, efficient, and equitable distribution of radio service to each of the same." The
Federal Communications Commission The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is an Independent agencies of the United States government, independent agency of the United States government that regulates communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable across the ...
interprets this as requiring that every broadcast station "be licensed to the principal community or other political subdivision which it primarily serves." For each broadcast service, the FCC defines a standard for what it means to serve a community; for example, commercial
FM radio in Henderson, Nevada and broadcasts at a frequency of 95.5 MHz. FM broadcasting is a method of radio broadcasting , Sweden , Norway Radio broadcasting is transmission of audio signal, audio (sound), sometimes with related metadata Metadat ...
stations are required to provide a
field strength In physics Physics (from grc, φυσική (ἐπιστήμη), physikḗ (epistḗmē), knowledge of nature, from ''phýsis'' 'nature'), , is the natural science that studies matter, its Motion (physics), motion and behavior through S ...
of at least 3.16 millivolts per meter (mV/m) over the entire land area of the community, whereas
non-commercial educational A non-commercial educational station (NCE station) is a radio station , Sweden , Norway Radio broadcasting is transmission of audio signal, audio (sound), sometimes with related metadata, by radio waves intended to reach a wide audience. In terr ...
FM stations need only provide a field strength of 1 mV/m over 50% of the community's population. This electric field contour is called the "principal community contour". The
Federal Communications Commission The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is an Independent agencies of the United States government, independent agency of the United States government that regulates communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable across the ...
(FCC) makes other requirements on stations relative to their communities of license; these requirements have varied over time. One example is the requirement for stations to identify themselves, by
call sign In broadcasting and radio communications, a call sign (also known as a call name or call letters—and historically as a call signal—or abbreviated as a call) is a Identifier, unique designation for a transmitter station. In the United States of ...
and community, at sign-on, sign-off, and at the top of every hour of operation. Other current requirements include providing a local telephone number in the community's calling area (or else a toll-free number) and (in most cases) maintaining an official main studio within 25 miles of the community's geographic center.


Policy and regulatory issues


Nominal main studio requirements

The requirement that a station maintain a main studio within a station's primary coverage area or within a maximum distance of the community of license originated in an era in which stations were legally required to generate local content and the majority of a station's local, non-network programming was expected to originate in one central studio location. In this context, the view of broadcast regulators held that an expedient way to ensure that content broadcast reflected the needs of a local community was to allocate local broadcast stations and studios to each individual city. The nominal main studio requirement has become less relevant with the introduction of
videotape Videotape is magnetic tape used for storing video and usually sound In physics Physics (from grc, φυσική (ἐπιστήμη), physikḗ (epistḗmē), knowledge of nature, from ''phýsis'' 'nature'), , is the natural sci ...
recorders in 1956 (which allowed local content to be easily generated off-site and transported to stations), the growing portability of broadcast-quality production equipment due to
transistor file:MOSFET Structure.png, upright=1.4, Metal-oxide-semiconductor field-effect transistor (MOSFET), showing Metal gate, gate (G), body (B), source (S) and drain (D) terminals. The gate is separated from the body by an insulating layer (pink). A ...
ization and the elimination of requirements (in 1987 for most classes of US broadcast stations) that broadcasters originate any minimum amount of local content. While the main studio concept nominally remains in US broadcast regulations, and certain administrative requirements (such as the local employment of a manager and the equivalent of at least one other full-time staff member, as well as the maintenance of a public inspection file) are still applied, removal of the requirement that stations originate local content greatly weakens the significance of maintaining a local main studio. A facility capable of originating programming and feeding it to a
transmitter In electronics Electronics comprises the physics, engineering, technology and applications that deal with the emission, flow and control of electrons in vacuum and matter. It uses active devices to control electron flow by amplifier, amplific ...
must still exist, but under normal conditions there most often is no requirement that these local studio actually be in active use to originate any specific local programming. In many cases, the use of centralcasting and broadcast automation has greatly weakened the role and importance of manual control by staff at the nominal local station studio facilities. Exceptions to these rules have been made by regulators, primarily on a case-by-case basis, to deal with "satellite stations": transmitters which are licensed to comply with the technical requirements of Full service (radio format), full service broadcast facilities and have their own independent call signs and communities of license but are used simply as full-power broadcast translators to rebroadcast another station. These are most often non-commercial educational stations or stations serving thinly populated areas which otherwise would be too small to support an independent local full-service broadcaster.


Political considerations

The requirement that a full-service station maintain local presence in its community of license has been used by proponents of localism and community radio, community broadcasting as a means to oppose the construction and use of local stations as mere rebroadcasters or satellite-fed translators of distant stations. Without specific requirements for service to the local community of license, stations could be constructed in large number by out-of-region broadcasters who feed transmitters via communications satellite, satellite and offer no local content. There also has been a de facto preference by regulators to encourage the assignment of broadcast licenses to smaller cities which otherwise would have no local voice, instead of allowing all broadcast activity to be concentrated in large metropolitan areas already served by many existing broadcasters. When dealing with multiple competing US radio station applications, current FM allotment priorities are: (1) first full-time aural service; (2) second full-time aural service; (3) first local aural transmission service; and (4) Other public interest matters. Similar criteria were extended to competing applicants for non-commercial stations by US legislation passed in 2000.


Suburban community problem

Any policy favoring applicants for communities not already served by an existing station has had the unintended effect of encouraging applicants to merely list a small suburb of a large city, claiming to be the "first station in the community" even though the larger city is well served by many existing stations. "The Suburban Community Problem" was recognized in FCC policy as early as 1965. "Stations in metropolitan areas often tend to seek out national and regional advertisers and to identify themselves with the entire metropolitan area rather than with the particular needs of their specified communities," according to an FCC policy statement of the era. In order "to discourage applicants for smaller communities who would be merely substandard stations for neighboring, larger communities," the FCC established the so-called "Suburban Community presumption" which required applicants for AM stations in such markets to demonstrate that they had ascertained the unmet programming needs of the specific communities and were prepared to satisfy those needs. By 1969, the same issues had spread to FM licensing; instead of building transmitters in the community to nominally be served, applicants would often seek to locate the tower site at least halfway to the next major city. In one such precedent case (the Berwick Doctrine), the FCC required a hearing before Berwick, a prospective broadcaster, could locate transmitters midway between Pittston, Pennsylvania (the city of license) and a larger audience in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Wilkes-Barre. A related problem was that of 'move-in'. Outlying communities would find their small-town local stations sold to outsiders, who would then attempt to change the community of license to a suburb of the nearest major city, move transmitter locations or remove existing local content from broadcasts in an attempt to move into the larger city. The small town of Anniston, Alabama, due to its location 90 miles west of Atlanta and 65 miles east of Birmingham, Alabama, Birmingham, has lost local content from both TV and FM stations which were re-targeted at one of the two larger urban centers or moved outright. (WNNX, WHMA-FM Anniston is now licensed as WNNX College Park, Georgia - an Atlanta suburb - after a failed attempt to relicense it to Sandy Springs, Georgia - another Metro Atlanta#Surrounding cities, Atlanta suburb. Transmitters are now in downtown Atlanta.) The same is true for WJSU, which served East Alabama with local news until the station was merged into a triplex to form WBMA, ABC 33/40 which focuses its coverage on the central part of the state. A 1988 precedent case (Faye and Richard Tuck, 3 FCC Rcd 5374, 1988) created the "Tuck Analysis" as a standard which attempts to address the Suburban Community Problem on a case-by-case basis by examining: # the station's proposed signal coverage over the urbanized area (the "Coverage Factor"); # the relative population size and distance between the suburban community and the urban market (the "Relative Size and Distance Factor"); and # the independence of the suburban community, based on various factors that would indicate self-sufficiency (the "Independence Factor"). Despite the best intentions of regulators, the system remains prone to manipulation.


Licensing and on-air identity

While becoming less meaningful over the decades, stations are still required to post a public file somewhere within 25 miles of the city, and to cover the entire city with a local Signalling (telecommunication), signal. In the United States, a station's
transmitter In electronics Electronics comprises the physics, engineering, technology and applications that deal with the emission, flow and control of electrons in vacuum and matter. It uses active devices to control electron flow by amplifier, amplific ...
must be located so that it can provide a strong signal over nearly all of its "principal community" (5 mV/m or stronger at night for AM stations, 70 dbuV for FM, 35 dbu for DTV channels 2–6, 43 dbu for channels 7-13 and 48 dbu for channels 14+), even if it primarily serves another city. For example, American television station WTTV primarily serves Indianapolis; however, the transmitter is located farther south than the other stations in that city because it is licensed to Bloomington, Indiana, Bloomington, 50 miles south of Indianapolis (it maintains a satellite station, WTTK, licensed to Kokomo, Indiana, but in the digital age, WTTK is for all intents and purposes the station's main signal, transmitting from the traditional Indianapolis transmitter site). In some cases, such as Jeannette, Pennsylvania-licensed WPCW 19, the FCC has waived this requirement; the station claimed that retaining an existing transmitter site 25.6 miles southeast of its new community of license of Jeannette would be in compliance with the commission's minimum distance separation requirements (avoiding interference to co-channel interference, co-channel WOIO 19 Shaker Heights, Ohio, Shaker Heights). Another extreme example of a station's transmitter located far from the city of license is the FM station KPNT, formerly licensed to Ste. Genevieve, Missouri and transmitting from Hillsboro, Missouri, Hillsboro, but serving the St. Louis and Metro East market to the north. In 2015, the station was allowed by the FCC to move their city of license to Collinsville, Illinois and have a transmitter in St. Louis proper with a power decrease. FCC regulations also require stations at least once an hour to state the station's call letters, followed by the city of license. However, the FCC has no restrictions on additional names after the city of license, so many stations afterwards add the nearest large city. For example, CBS affiliate WOIO is licensed to Shaker Heights, Ohio, Shaker Heights, a suburb of Cleveland, and thus identifies as "WOIO Shaker Heights-Cleveland." Similarly, northern New York (state), New York's WWNY-TV (also a CBS affiliate) identifies as "WWNY-TV North American broadcast television frequencies, 7 Carthage, New York, Carthage-Watertown, New York, Watertown" as a historical artifact; the original broadcasts originated from Champion, New York, Champion Hill in 1954 so the license still reflects this tiny location. If the station is licensed in the primary city served, on occasion the station will list a second city next to it. For example, the Tampa Bay region's Fox owned-and-operated station WTVT is licensed to Tampa, Florida, its primary city, but identifies on-air as "WTVT Tampa/St. Petersburg, Florida, St. Petersburg", as St. Petersburg is another major city in the market. There is no longer a requirement to carry program (management), programs relevant to the particular community, or even necessarily to operate or transmit from that community. Accordingly, stations licensed to smaller communities in major metropolitan area, metropolitan markets often target programming toward the entire market rather than the official home community, and often move their studio facilities to the larger urban centre as well. For instance, the Canadian radio station CFNY-FM is officially licensed to Brampton, Brampton, Ontario, although its studio and transmitter facilities are located in downtown Toronto. This may, at times, lead to confusion — while media directories normally list broadcast stations by their legal community of license, audiences often disregard (or may even be entirely unaware of) the distinction. For instance, for a short time while resolving a license conflict and ownership transaction in 1989, the current day KCAL-TV in Los Angeles was licensed to the little-known southeast suburb of Norwalk, California, with the station's identifications at the time only vocally mentioning the temporary city of license in a rushed form, with Norwalk barely receiving any visual mention on the station; at no time were any station assets actually based in Norwalk, nor was public affairs or news programming adjusted to become Norwalk-centric over that of Los Angeles and Southern California. The station returned to its Los Angeles city of license after the transaction was complete.


Table of allotments

In the United States, the
Federal Communications Commission The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is an Independent agencies of the United States government, independent agency of the United States government that regulates communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable across the ...
maintains a Table of Allotments, which assigns individual channel frequencies to individual cities or communities for both television, TV and
FM radio in Henderson, Nevada and broadcasts at a frequency of 95.5 MHz. FM broadcasting is a method of radio broadcasting , Sweden , Norway Radio broadcasting is transmission of audio signal, audio (sound), sometimes with related metadata Metadat ...
. A corresponding Table of Allotments for digital television was created in 1997. To operate a licensed station, a broadcaster must first obtain allocation of the desired frequencies in the FCC's Table of Allotments for the intended city of license. This process is subject to various political and bureaucratic restrictions, based on considerations including the number of existing stations in the area. The term "city" has in some cases been relaxed to mean "community", often including the unincorporated areas around the city that share a mailing address. This sometimes leads to inconsistencies, such as the licensing of one metro Atlanta station to the unincorporated Cobb County, Georgia, Cobb County community of Mableton, Georgia, Mableton, but the refusal to license WNNX#History, another to Sandy Springs, Georgia, Sandy Springs,MM Docket No. 89-686 Table of Allotments FM Broadcast Stations. RM-7035 (Eatonton and Sandy Springs, Georgia)
/ref> which is one of the largest cities in the state, and was at the time an unincorporated part of Fulton County, Georgia, Fulton County only for political reasons in the Georgia General Assembly. The definition of a "community" also comes into play when a broadcaster wants to take a station away from a tiny hamlet like North Pole, New York whose population is in decline. In general, regulators are loath to allow a community's only licence to be moved away - especially to a city which already has a station (a rare few exceptions were made to accommodate the then-fledgling third-rank American Broadcasting Company in the 1950s). A broadcaster may make the case that the "community" functionally no longer exists in order to be released from its local obligations. Often, the city of license does not correspond to the location of the station itself, of the primary audience or of the communities identified in the station's branding and advertising. Some of the more common reasons for a community of license to be listed as a point far from the actual audience include: ;The "compromise" location: A broadcaster may wish to serve two different communities, both in the same region but far enough from each other that a transmitter in one market would provide poor service to the other. While a transmitter in each community served would be preferable, occasionally a station licensed to a small town between the two larger centres will be used. ;The suburban station: In
FM radio in Henderson, Nevada and broadcasts at a frequency of 95.5 MHz. FM broadcasting is a method of radio broadcasting , Sweden , Norway Radio broadcasting is transmission of audio signal, audio (sound), sometimes with related metadata Metadat ...
broadcasting, small local stations were sometimes built to serve suburban or outlying areas in an era where
AM radio AM broadcasting is radio broadcasting , Sweden , Norway Radio broadcasting is transmission of audio signal, audio (sound), sometimes with related metadata Metadata is " data" that provides information about other data". In other words, it ...
stations held the largest audiences and much of the FM spectrum lay vacant. In the era of vacuum tubes, the five-tube AM radio with no FM tuning capability and limited audio quality was common; later advances in receiver design were to make good-quality FM commonplace (even though most AM/FM stereo receivers still have severely limited AM frequency response and no AM stereo decoders). Eventually FM spectrum became a very scarce commodity in many markets as AM stations moved to the FM dial, relegating AM largely to talk radio. As cities expanded, former small-town FM stations found themselves not only in what were now becoming rapidly expanding suburbs but also on what was becoming some of the most valuable spectrum in broadcast radio. The once-tiny FM stations would often then be sold, increased (where possible) to much-higher power and used to serve a huge mainstream audience in the larger metropolitan area. ;The short-spaced station: To avoid co-channel interference, a minimum distance is maintained between stations operating on the same frequency in different markets. On VHF, full-power stations are typically 175 miles or more apart before the same channel is used again. An otherwise-desirable channel may therefore be unavailable to a community unless either it is operated at greatly reduced-power, forced onto a strongly directional antenna pattern to protect the distant co-channel station or relocated to some other, more distant location in the region to maintain proper spacing. The choice of another community as home for a station can be one possible means to avoid short-spacing, effectively shifting the entire station's coverage area to maintain the required distances between transmitters. ;The distant mountaintop antenna: In hilly or mountainous regions, a city would often be built in a waterfront or lakeside location (such as Plattsburgh, New York, Plattsburgh-Burlington, Vermont, Burlington, both on Lake Champlain) - lower ground which in turn would be surrounded by tall mountain peaks. The only reliable means to get the VHF television or radio signals over the mountains was to build a station atop one of the mountain peaks. This occasionally left stations with a distant mountaintop (or its nearest small crossroads) as the historical city of license, even though the audience was elsewhere. ;The relocation of an existing station: Often, a license for a new station will not be available in a community, either because a regulatory agency was only willing to accept new applications within specified narrow timeframes or because there are no suitable vacant channels. A prospective broadcaster must therefore buy an existing station as the only way to readily enter the market, in some cases being left with a station in a suburban, outlying or adjacent-market area if that were the only facility available for sale. ;The border blaster: Occasionally, a community on an international border is served using a station licensed to another country. This may provide access to less restrictive broadcast regulation or represent a means to use local marketing agreements or adjacent-market licences to circumvent limits on the number of stations under common ownership. ;The last-available frequency allocation: In the early days of television, the majority of stations could be found on the VHF band; in North America, this currently represents just twelve possible channels and in large markets any suitable allocations in this range were mostly full by the early 1950s. Occasionally, a prospective broadcaster could obtain one of these coveted positions by acquiring an existing station or permit in an adjacent community - although in some cases this meant a move out-of-state. ;The use of an adjacent market: Occasionally, a station owner would reach a legal limit on concentration of media ownership, already having the maximum number of commonly owned stations in a market. Additional stations would be possible by transmitting the extra signals from a station technically in an adjacent market. ;The arbitrary nominal location: In some cases, stations were constructed or acquired with the express purpose of driving a regional or province-wide chain of full-power repeaters. Which of these "satellite stations" would be designated as the main signal could be an arbitrary choice, as the programming carried on all stations in the system would be identical.


See also

* All Channels Act * Border Blaster * Rimshot (broadcasting) * Twinstick and Duopoly (broadcasting) * Flag of convenience (business)


References

{{DEFAULTSORT:City Of License Broadcast law United States communications regulation Canadian mass media regulation