On Friday, the Audio Division of the FCC’s Media Bureau released a letter decision rejecting an objection filed by three groups advocating on behalf of LPFM stations against almost 1000 FM translator applications – most of which were filed to provide FM translators for AM stations in the most recent window for the filing of such applications. We wrote about the grounds for the objections here, which included claims that Section 5 of the Local Community Radio Act, an act setting some ground rules for the relationship between LPFM stations and translators, mandated that the FCC evaluate each of these applications for its individual impact on LPFM opportunities in the future. Once the objection was rejected, the FCC resumed processing of pending applications.
The letter decision found numerous issues with the objection. It noted that 55 of the applications had already been granted when the objection was filed, and 35 had been dismissed, thus the objection came too late. Additionally, a number of the applications to which the objection was directed were mere minor changes in existing translators. The Audio Division noted that the Section 5 of the LCRA, which says that translators and LPFMs are equal in status and that the FCC needed to provide opportunities for each of those classes of stations, did not apply to evaluations of modifications of existing translators, but instead only to applications for new translators.
As to the objections to the remaining applications for new translators, the FCC found that the objections did not even purport to give any details as to how the vast majority of the translator applications had any impact on any specific LPFM opportunities. Moreover, the decision noted, that nothing in the statute required that the FCC, every time it processed applications for either LPFMs or translators, to assure that there was room for stations of the other service. The services are processed under different standards and at different times. The FCC just recently had a filing window reserved for LPFM applicants – where it granted applications for about 2000 of those stations, so plenty of opportunity had been provided for LPFM stations. Nothing in the LCRA mandates that each translator application be evaluated for impact on LPFM opportunities. While the FCC did not explicitly say it, if the objection’s contention that treating LPFM and translators equally and providing opportunities for each required that each translator application be evaluated for its preclusive impact on LPFM, that same evaluation would seemingly have to be in connection with each LPFM application, assessing its impact on translator availability – in which case in some locations nothing would ever get granted as the grant of an application for one could preclude opportunities for the other.
So the objection has been resolved, and given the informal nature of the objection, appeal rights are somewhat limited. It appears that now the translator application processing will continue. So look for further action on pending applications soon.