FCC Adopts Rules to Expand Low Power FM Radio Services

By Ashok Bindra December 12, 2012

To expand low power FM radio opportunities for a large number of diverse voices in the U.S., the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has finally adopted rules to implement the Local Community Radio Act of 2010 also known as the LCRA, which requires balancing the competing needs of the FM translator and low power FM (LPFM) services.

According to business law firm Womble Carlyle, the FCC has specifically adopted procedures to manage the backlog of translator applications that remain from its March 2003 filing window.

In addition, the commission has modified its criteria to resolve mutual exclusivity among new LPFM applications, for which it plans to open a filing window in October 2013.

As per the firm’s explanation, the FCC has modified its proposed limit upon the number of translator applications that it will process from a single applicant. This is because it is concerned that a significant percentage of applications granted permits from the prior window that were never built.  These indications led the commission to conclude that many filings had been speculative. So, it is refining the procedure to avoid abusive behavior in the future, says Womble Carlyle.

To discourage trafficking in translator permits, the FCC has also rejected the suggestion of imposing holding periods or limitations upon sale prices. Instead, it has established two new standards including a national limit of 70 filings in a given translator window of which only 50 could be in 156 specified metro markets, plus a concurrent regional limit of three filings per market.

Nevertheless, it will impose two conditions upon applicants seeking more than a single facility in one of the 156 designated markets. First, there can be no 60 dBu contour overlap among the applications nor with the 60 Bu contours of an applicant’s existing translator authorizations. Second, each application must demonstrate that grant of the proposed translator will not preclude a future LPFM application.

The report covers LPFM rules and procedures in more detail, as well as discusses the selection criteria. Findings even suggest that the FCC is planning a single LPFM filing window to open on the target date of October 15, 2013. The delay is intended to afford potential applicants adequate time for preparation and enable the commission to resolve the FM translator application backlog.

Lastly, all five commissioners have issued statements of strong support for this action, citing the enhanced opportunities for programming diversity and local community service that they hail as the primary role of the LPFM service.

A copy of the finalized rules to implement LCRA is available on the commission’s website and can be accessed by clicking here.

Edited by Jamie Epstein

TechZone360 Contributor

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