The Federal Communications Commission yesterday proposed new regulations taht could lead to the creation of up to 120 new AM radio stations.
At the same meeting the commission delayed a decision on whether to implement a major policy change but would allow the establishment of four new VHF televesion stations-the first new stations in the channels 2-13 range in approximately 20 years.
The radio proposal involves a sharp curtailment of the "clear channel" situation which allows 25 stations across the country sole possession of their frequency spot on the AM dial.
The stations involved are powerful transmitters which can, at night, cover as much as half the continental United States with their broadcast signals.
No other stations are allowed to use those frequencies. The "clear channel" stations were created in the early days of radio to serve rural areas with no local broadcasting.
But with that need long since filled, the commission now wants to allow new stations to move into some or all of the clear channel frequencies, a move that would create a virtual gold rush of new applicants for AM radio stations would also help in efforts to attract more minority-owned broadcast outlets, a goal that has been espoused by the Carter administration and Congress.
Accordingly, the commission said it would be its policy to give attentive consideration to the merits of broadcast license requests by minority applicants.
The radio proposal is open to public comment until April 9, 1979.
The commission rejected a staff-presented plan would have permitted existing clear-channel stations to increase their power from 50 kilowatts to 500 kilowatts.
The television proposal that was deferred for more study would have allowed four new VHF stations, one each to "drop in" to Salt Lake City, Knoxville, Tenn., Charleston, W. Va. and Johnstown, Pa.
The FCC staff said at yesterday's meeting that it opposed the plan, which would have opened up the door the creation of the first black-owned VHF* station. Black construction company owner Burrell Haselrig Jr. and partner Robert Audey have invested more than $150,000 in feasability studies for theri proposed new station in Johnstown, Pa.
But the commission felt more study was needed on the impact of passing the "drop-in" rule. It was unclear if the addition of the new stations would interfere with existing signals. Existing FCC regulations would prohibit any more new VHF stations.
In addition, the FCC's Broadcast Bureau told the commission that approval of the new stations would mean an "abrupt change" in longstanding FCC policy and could have a "chilling effect" on the development any more new VHF stations.