Golden opportunity for more FM


Should the FCC put FM radio on Channels 5 and 6? TV over-air Channels 5 and 6 abut the lower end of the FM band – Channel 5 runs from 76 MHz through 82 MHz, and Channel 6 goes from 82 MHz through 88 MHz. FM starts at 88.1 MHz. MMTC wants these two channels frozen out of an upcoming digital LPTV and TV translator window, along with a freeze on pending applications, while the FCC considers proposals to repurpose the channels for radio station use.

The idea is to provide homes for LPFMs, would-be noncommercial broadcasters and to allow facility upgrades for technically-challenged AM stations.

In a letter to the FCC, Minority Media and Telecommunications Council President and Executive Director David Honig wrote, “MMTC filed comments supporting the comprehensive plan submitted by Broadcast Maximization Committee (“BMC”) which proposes that this spectrum be used for (1) new and existing (displaced) low power FM (“LPFM”) stations; (2) expand the NCE service with new stations; and (3) provide for the reallocation and migration of all AM stations to the remaining available space in this spectrum with digital transmissions only. As BMC demonstrated, the benefits flowing from these proposals would greatly enhance the Commission’s localism, diversity and digital radio initiatives. Further MMTC stated that these proposals would significantly assist small business, women and minority-owned stations that are located primarily in the AM band with technically inferior stations.”

Honig concluded, “BMC has offered a comprehensive plan for the use of Channels 5 and 6 that will provide enormous benefits to NCE, LPFM and AM stations and applicants. This opportunity may be the only means to save the AM stations in a digital-only world. The Commission has offered a once in a generation opportunity to use a clean slate to solicit ideas for these channels and there are other worthy proposals that have been submitted as well. MMTC believes it would be extremely short sighted if the Commission compromised this opportunity by accepting and processing LPTV and television translator applications for these channels.”

RBR-TVBR observation: It would take some time for this proposal to reach fruition if it is ever adopted, simply accounting for the waiting period for consumer FM receivers with a downward-expanded FM band to get on the market. Add to that the time it will take for the current generation of receivers to melt into obsolescence. But this idea sure would open up a lot of space on the dial – it would be a boon to new entrants, and would help control interference on the incumbent portion of the dial.