At last Tuesday’s FCC meeting, the Commission adopted a controversial order, over the objection of two Commissioners, that could limit the processing of some applications for improvements by some full power FM stations, and would restrict translator applications, all in the name of encouraging Low Power FM (LPFM) stations to provide outlets for expression by groups that cannot get access to full-power radio stations (see our summary of that action here). In recent weeks, two ideas have received some publicity providing an alternative outlet for these prospective local broadcasters – and both provide a simple solution (one more immediate and ad hoc than that other), but both leading to the same result – why not just extend the FM band by using TV channel 6?
The current FM band begins at 88.1 MHz, a channel that is actually immediately adjacent to TV Channel 6. The FCC has for years restricted operations of noncommercial FM stations (which operate from 88.1 to 91.9 on the FM dial) in areas where there are Channel 6 TV stations in order to prevent the radio stations from creating interference to the reception of the TV stations. That’s while you will often find fewer noncommercial stations, or ones with weaker coverage, in communities that have TV Channel 6 licensees. TV stations use an FM transmission system for their audio. Thus, you will also find that most FM receivers (especially ones without digital tuners) will pick up the audio from TV channel 6 if tuned all the way to the left of the dial. The short-term solution to expanding the FM band came from one broadcaster who noted that fact.