In the last week, several new LPFM issues have arisen – one a Congressional push to authorize more of these stations by ignoring third adjacent channel interference to full power stations, and another involving complaints to the FCC about LPFM stations being forced to change channels or cease operation because of interference from changes made by full power stations. The latter issue has apparently arisen in the context of stations taking advantage of the FCC’s rules which made it easier to effectuate changes in the cities of license of FM stations (see our summary of the rule changes here), causing more movement of such stations. Both of these issues could present issues for FM broadcasters.
The Congressional action was initiated by the introduction of legislation in both the House and the Senate that would eliminate third adjacent channel protections that full power stations have from LPFMs. Those protections have been the subject of controversy since the FCC authorized the LPFM service. LPFM advocates have contended that the interference protections are unnecessary, as most FM receivers should be able to distinguish between stations on third adjacent channels. The NAB contends that the protections are needed as there are still many radios that would be affected by that interference. Full power stations, except for those authorized at short-spacings prior to 1964, are protected from third adjacent channel interference from each other. Competing engineering studies have been done, the FCC has not acted on this question (and in fact Congress had prohibited such action years ago). But now, some feel that the time for some liberalization of the rules is in order.
At the same time, LPFM advocates have been complaining to the FCC about FM upgrades or facility changes that have caused LPFM stations to have to cease operations or look for alternative channels as they would cause interference to the new facilities of some FM stations. An article on these complaints, including a mention of Congressional and FCC meetings on the subject, can be found here. One interesting claim is that some of the LPFM operators were not aware that they were operating a secondary service – or that this meant that the station could be bumped by changes made by a full power station.
FM broadcasters who waited years for last Fall’s FCC decision liberalizing changes in cities of license and other technical changes, would be very concerned were some or all of these modifications rolled back because of LPFM interference. Thus, broadcasters should stay on top of this issue to make sure that the ability for eased facility changes are not rolled back.