Determining how much interference to full-power FM stations is acceptable from LPFM stations is perhaps, in the long run, one of the most important issues discussed in the FCC’s two orders released two weeks ago clarifying the rules for LPFM stations.  The FCC’s proposals on this issue, and several others, has now been published in the Federal Register, asking for public comments by May 7, with reply comments due May 21.   As we detailed when we wrote about the proposals that have now been published in the Federal Register, while the FCC did away with strict mileage limitations on third-adjacent channel spacings between LPFM stations and full-power FMs as required by the Local Community Radio Act ("LCRA"), it did not totally eliminate all interference requirements.  Instead, it proposed a two-tier system requiring more remediation efforts by LPFMs that operate at less than what had been the required spacings, and lesser interference for stations that did observe the old mileage separations.  The May 7 comment deadline also applies to comments on the FCC’s proposals for second-adjacent channel waivers of the required spacings between LPFMs and full-power FM stations, and on changes to the service rules for LPFMs – including allowing them to operate at powers as high as 250 watts ERP in rural areas.

The ruling eliminating the third-adjacent channel spacing rule as required by the LCRA was published in the Federal Register yesterday, meaning that the rule becomes effective on June 4, but practically that should mean little until the FCC addresses the interference-complaint resolution issues addressed in the Further NPRM.  The abolition of the third adjacent channel spacing rules did leave in place one limitation, that LPFM stations cannot cause more interference than they can under present rules for stations that offer reading services for the blind

The Further NPRM also addresses second adjacent channel interference, proposing very strict rules that require an LPFM to cease operations if it creates any interference to a regularly used FM signal – even outside of the full-power station’s protected service contours.  This is essentially the FM translator interference requirement – which has, in the past, caused many translators to cease operations or change their technical facilities to protect full-power stations.  Further details on this proposal are available in our summary of the order.  That summary, however, did not address the proposed changes in the LPFM service rules, which we address below.


Continue Reading May 7 Deadline Set for Comments on Proposed Rules on Interference to Full-Power FM by LPFM Stations, and on LPFM Service Rules (Including Proposal for 250 Watt LPFM Stations)

The status of LPFM stations has been up in the air almost since they were first created over a decade ago, as the FCC has been slow to open a window for filing applications for new stations while controversies about interference with full-power FM stations and FM translators, and other issues, were being hashed out. This past week, the FCC issued two orders interpreting the Local Community Radio Act ("LCRA") passed by Congress in late 2010 (which we summarized here), and clarifying other issues affecting the service.  This article will discuss the first of the two orders – attempting to resolve the priorities between LPFM stations and the thousands of applications for new FM translators still remaining to be processed from the FCC’s 2003 FM translator window. Subsequent articles will discuss the second order (which also contains a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking asking for public comment on several proposals).  That order and NPRM addresses the interference protections between LPFM and full-power FM stations, the elimination of third-adjacent channel protections, and proposes some changes in LPFM rules, including proposals to allow LPFM stations to operate with up to 250 watts ERP in smaller markets, and even to operate FM translator stations of their own.

The first order attempts to resolve the issues about the FM translator applications that have been pending since 2003.  LPFM advocates contend that the thousands of applications that remain to be processed will foreclose LPFM opportunities, particularly in larger markets, by using up all available spectrum.  The translator applicants, on the other hand, have contended that translators provide an important service – expanding the reach of noncommercial stations and now allowing new outlets to more readily make available to the public the signals of AM stations and FM HD streams.  The order sets out markets where the FCC has found that spectrum is indeed limited for LPFM opportunities, where translator applications will be dismissed to provide opportunities for a certain base level of  LPFM service.  The order does not fully adopt the system proposed in the FCC’s July NPRM in this matter (see our summaries here and here)  which would have required the blanket dismissals of all translator applications in spectrum limited markets.  Instead, it provides opportunities for some translators to be processed even in these markets with limited LPFM opportunities, where it can be shown that these translators do not in fact block such opportunities. This is detailed below, as are the rules that the FCC has adopted which set local and national limits on the number of applications from the 2003 window that one applicant can continue to process and some changes in the rules regarding FM translator use by AM stations.


Continue Reading FCC Clarifies Rules for LPFM – Part 1 – What to Do With FM Translator Applications From the 2003 Filing Window, and Using Translators for the Rebroadcasting of AM Stations