[Correction 1/24/2008- we have published a correction to this entry, here, noting that the Federal Register publication described below contained only half of the FCC’s order in its LPFM proceeding, omitting the portion seeking public comment. That section of the order will apparently be published in the Federal Register at a later date – so the February 19 comment date set out below is incorrect. Everyone has more time to prepare their comments. The actual filing date will be set in the future.]
The FCC Order establishing new rules for Low Power FM (LPFM) Stations was published in the Federal Register on January 17. This sets the date of February 19 for the filing of comments on the question of the relationship between LPFM stations and both FM translators and full-power FM stations. These comments will address two issues, (1) whether LPFM stations should remain secondary stations, subject to being knocked off the air by new full-power FM stations and (2) whether LPFM stations should get some sort of priority over some or all FM translator stations.
LPFM stations have been "secondary" stations, meaning that they could be knocked off the air when a new FM station came on the air, or when improvements to the facilities of an existing FM station were constructed, if the new full-power FM facilities would be caused interference from the existing LPFM station. As we wrote here, at its November meeting, the FCC decided that it needed more information to determine whether LPFM stations should continue to be secondary to new or improved FM stations. While not reaching a final determination on that issue, the FCC adopted temporary processing policies which essentially force the full-power stations to deal with LPFM operators in cases where such interference arises – potentially blocking improvements in the facilities of a number of FM stations.
On the translator issue, the FCC is asking whether LPFM stations should get some sort of preference over FM translator stations – perhaps allowing a new LPFM station to knock some or all translators off the air. The Commission asks whether LPFM stations better serve the public interest than do FM translators in some or all circumstances. For instance, the Commission has suggested that only a certain number of FM translators per main station should be protected, or some other criteria should be used, to determine which translators should be given protection from LPFM interference.
These are important issues that broadcasters should consider carefully as it could affect the ability of many stations to expand their service (or for translator operators to continue to serve areas that they currently serve). Parties affected by these proposals should file comments on or before the February 19 deadline.