FCC opens the gates for LPFM


The November Open Meeting of the FCC was a landmark for proponents of community-based LPFM. The Commission adopted rules to immediately boost the service and is looking at additional measures to push it forward even more. The gains did not come without objection from two of the Republican members. Democrats Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein joined Chairman Kevin Martin in fully-supporting the measure. Republicans Deborah Taylor Tate and Robert McDowell both felt that in some instances it went too far. In particular, they objected to a cap on FM translator applications of ten in order to leave room on the dial for potential LPFM applications, and to protections from full power stations potentially granted to LPFMs. As Taylor said, "…they accept their license knowing that they are a secondary service, and accept both the risks and rewards that status entails."

The measures of concern to full power broadcasters include the prospect of new interference from 2nd adjacencies (which will need a push from Congress) and innoculating LPFMs from new full-power competitors trying to enter a market via a city-of-license change.

The new rules and the proposed rules for which comment is being sought are below.

The Order:
a.. Allows the transfer of LFPM licenses subject to significant limitations.
b.. Reinstates the Commission’s rule that all LPFM authorization holders be local to the community and limits ownership to one station per licensee.
c.. Clarifies that repetitious, automated programming does not meet the local origination requirement.
d.. Encourages voluntary time-sharing agreements between applicants.
e.. Imposes an application cap on 2003 FM translator window filers.
f.. Limits the responsibility of LPFM stations to resolve interference caused to subsequently authorized full-service stations.
g.. Establishes a procedural framework for considering short-spacing waivers and a going-forward displacement policy for LPFM stations.
In the Second Notice of Proposed Rule-Making, the Commission:
a.. Seeks comment on technical rules that could potentially expand LPFM licensing opportunities.
b.. Tentatively concludes that full service stations must provide technical and financial assistance to LPFM stations when implementation of a full service station facility proposal would cause interference to an LPFM station.
c.. Tentatively concludes that the Commission should adopt a contour-based protection methodology to expand LPFM licensing opportunities.
d.. Intends to address the issues in the FNPRM within 6 months, and that the next filing window for a non-tabled aural licensed service will be for LPFM.
e.. Recommends to Congress that it remove the requirement that LPFM stations protect full-power stations operating on third adjacent channels.