Rules regarding the processing FM applications – particularly those involving upgrade applications that require the forced change of the channel on which another station is operating – can be very complicated.   In a decision released the week before last, the FCC looked at all sorts of issues that can be raised by one of these applications – including clarifying the timing of the required reimbursement for the costs of the station that is being forced to change channels, the timing of required channel changes, and the ability of an applicant to file an upgrade while a license application is pending for initially constructed facilities of a station. For any radio operator contemplating an upgrade involving coordination of channel changes with other stations, this decision is worth a read.

The issue of reimbursement of the costs of a forced channel change is one that comes up in numerous upgrade applications. A station that wants to upgrade its facilities can ask the FCC to change the channel of another FM station to clear room on the dial for that upgrade – and that other station can be moved on the FM dial even if it does not want to change its channel. The FCC will order the other station to change channels as long as the upgrade proponent is able to find another channel for that station which is technically feasible at that station’s current transmitter site and is fully-spaced under the FCC rules governing required mileage separations between FM stations. Unless there is a unique issue about the channel to which the forced station is being moved, there are very few objections that can be raised to one of these involuntary channel changes. However, the station that is upgrading has an obligation to reimburse the changing station for all of the costs of the forced relocation.
Continue Reading FCC’s Audio Division Case Clarifies Processing Rules for FM Upgrades and Forced Channel Changes

The FCC yesterday issued a public notice extending the time for comments on a Petition for Rulemaking seeking, among other things, to create a Class C4 FM station with maximum power levels at about 12 kW, twice the power of the least powerful class of FM stations – Class A stations that are limited to 6 kW in power.  As we wrote earlier this month when we first addressed this topic, this request for comments is only a preliminary request seeking input as to whether the Commission should even consider this petition further.  Depending on the comments received, the Commission could do nothing at all, or they could adopt a formal notice of proposed rulemaking looking to adopt specific rules for the new service.  Comments on the proposal are now due on September 18, 2014, with reply comments to be filed by October 3.

What does this proposal request?  As stated above, the principal request is that a new FM class of station – a Class C4 – be adopted.  This class would allow Class A stations to approximately double their power to a maximum of 12 kW.  The petitioner points out that the current differences between the classes of FM stations is approximately 3 dB between all classes of FM stations, except for the difference between the current Class A and C3 classes, where the difference in signal intensity is about twice that amount.  Adding the C4 class would make the increases in power between the classes more uniform, and would allow many Class A stations to reach more people and to better penetrate buildings in urban areas.  Why aren’t all broadcasters in favor of this proposal?
Continue Reading FCC Extends Dates for Comments on Proposal to Create a Class C4 FM Station – What Does This Proposal Seek?

When the Low Power FM service was first authorized, it was as a "secondary service," though a recent court decision shows how that secondary status is becoming less and less a reality.  A secondary service is traditionally one that can be allotted where there are no other uses for a particular frequency, and which is subject to being bumped off the spectrum should there be another demand for that spectrum by a "primary" user.  LPFM stations were originally supposed to provide service to areas between full-power FM radio stations, and to be bumped off the air if there was a new FM station authorized or a change in the frequency or power of an existing station.  A decision of the Court of Appeals released earlier this month , upholding an FCC order giving more protections to LPFM stations, puts this secondary service into question.

The Court decision upheld the Commission’s decision, about which we wrote here, determining that waivers of second adjacent channel interference limitations between LPFM and full power stations should be permitted to help preserve LPFM service.  In addition, the Court upheld the FCC’s process in adopting a new "interim" policy which provides that, where an LPFM is providing 8 hours a day of local programming and would be knocked off the air by an upgrade or city of license change of a full-power station, the LPFM station could apply for a waiver of its secondary status, and there would be a rebuttable presumption in favor of such a waiver.  If the waiver is granted, the LPFM station would be preserved, and the application of the full-power station dismissed.  Thus, effectively, LPFM would no longer be secondary, but instead will have assumed a primary, protected status.


Continue Reading LPFM – When a Secondary Service Becomes Primary

Federal Register publication of the Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Low Power FM (LPFM) stations and their relationship to FM translators and upgrades of full-power FM stations occurred today.  This sets the comment dates in that proceeding – with comments due April 7, and replies on April 21.  This proceeding looks at

[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. 


Continue Reading Comment Date on the Relationship of Low Power FM Stations to FM Full Power Stations and Translators Set

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.


Continue Reading LPFM v. FM – More Stations Coming?