Last week, we published a note that the FCC had published the new rules on Low Power FM (LPFM) stations in the Federal Register, starting the comment period on the issues raised in the Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in that proceeding – principally addressing the relationship between LPFM stations and FM translators and improvements
[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
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.Continue Reading Who Needs LPFM? – Why Not Just Expand the FM Dial?
Last week, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin was quoted in several trade press reports as having told the House Small Business Committee that his office was working on an item to be circulated among the other commissioners that would ensure low power FM ("LPFM") stations "would have reasonable access to limited radio spectrum." So what does this…
During a panel at the NAB Radio Show, FCC Audio Services Division Chief Peter Doyle was asked a question about the processing of FM applications filed under the new simplified process for upgrades in their technical facilities and for changes in their cities of license (see our post here for details about that process). The question dealt with rumors that the processing of certain FM applications were being delayed if the proposed upgrade would cause interference problems to any LPFM stations which would threaten their existence. We have written about our concerns that such a policy was possible, here. According to the response yesterday, these delays are indeed taking place – meaning that LPFM stations that are supposed to be secondary services which yield to new or improved full-service stations are now blocking improvements in the facilities of these full-power stations.
Doyle explained that, at the moment, there is no policy of denying the full-service station’s application – but these applications are being put on hold if they would impede an LPFM’s ability to continue to operate in order to study options as to how the LPFM service might be preserved through a technical change or through agreements to accept interference. While no final determination has been reached as to what will happen to the applications if there is no available resolution to the LPFM interference issue, he pointed to the pending rulemaking (pending for almost two years) that would give LPFM’s higher status, and in effect allow them to preclude new or improved full-service operations. There was some indication that these actions were being taken pursuant to the potential policies set out in that Notice of Proposed Rulemaking – even though these policies were simply proposals advanced for public comment and have not yet been adopted by the full Commission.
At today’s Future of Music Policy Summit in Washington, DC, there has been much talk about issues of interest to broadcasters, including the performance right in sound recordings for terrestrial radio, multiple ownership, and many other issues. The Future of Music Coalition, whose website is here, is dedicated to bringing the voice of musicians and the public to Congress and other decision-makers in Washington. Thus, the Coalition is involved in music issues before Congress and the Copyright Office, as well as before the FCC and other agencies on issues including multiple ownership, net neutrality, and similar matters. Members of the Coalition have been involved in the Low Power FM debate. At the panel session titled "The Hill Was Alive with the Sound of Music," dealing with legislative matters affecting music that are pending or which may arise before Congress, only one issue was perceived as being likely to be considered and potentially resolved by this Congress, before the Presidential election. That was the issue of LPFM, where bills have been introduced in Congress to eliminate the restrictions that prohibited LPFM stations from causing third-adjacent channel interference to other stations.
The panel included staffers from both the House of Representatives and the Senate, who both indicated that, while there were many other issues of importance to those in the music industry that might be considered this year, LPFM was the one issue that had a chance of actually being adopted this year, given bipartisan support for pending bills. The pending legislation, The Local Community Radio Act of 2007, has been introduced in both the House and the Senate. This legislation would lift restrictions on interference to third adjacent channel stations – restrictions which were adopted by Congress about 7 years ago. We wrote about this legislation, here.Continue Reading LPFM Set to Move?
The FCC late today released its long-awaited Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposing to allow FM translators to rebroadcast the signal of AM stations – and potentially to originate programming during those nighttime hours when a daytime-only AM station is not permitted to operate. The proposal is to permit AM stations to operate FM translators in an area that is the lesser of a circle 25 miles from their transmitter site or within their 2 mv/m daytime service contour. In proposing the changes in its rules, the Commission raised a number of questions on which it seeks public comment. These include the following:
- Is allowing the rebroadcast of AM stations on FM translators in the public interest? What would its impact be on other stations including AM and FM stations, as well as LPFM stations?
- How many translators should each AM station be permitted?
- Should daytime-only AM stations be allowed to originate programming on an FM translator during hours when they have no programming to rebroadcast?
- Should the FCC permit AM stations to begin operating translators all at once – or should the use of these translators be phased in – perhaps permitting daytimers or stations with minimal nighttime power to operate translators first for some transitional period.
- Should there be a restriction on an AM station’s use of an FM translator if the AM is co-owned with an FM station in the same market?
- Can an AM station "broker" time on a translator to provide the type of service proposed in this proceeding?
In addition to these operational issues, the FCC poses a few technical issues about these operations. These include:
- Should any extension beyond the 2 mv/m contour be permitted? If so, how much and in what circumstances?
- How should the 2 mv/m contour be calculated – using standard FCC predictions, or allowing the measurement of the actual reach of that signal?
- Should the 25 mile zone be extended to 35 miles in Zone II (essentially the less populated areas of the country)?
Comments on the Notice will be due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register, with replies due 30 days later.Continue Reading FCC Finally Releases Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to Allow FM Translators to Rebroadcast AM Stations
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