The relationship between low power FM stations and both FM translators and full-power FM stations will be addressed by the FCC at its open meeting on November 30 – the only issues on the FCC’s agenda for that meeting. We expect that two controversial matters will be discussed – (1) the effect that the thousands of FM translators that remain pending from the 2003 translator window will have on LPFM availability and how to deal with those applications and (2) the interference considerations between translators and full-power stations, including issues such as second-adjacent channel interference waivers and the situations in which LPFM interference to full-power stations will require that the LPFM cease operations. For LPFM advocates and applicants, issues are also outstanding about the qualifications for LPFM applicants in an upcoming (yet-to-be announced LPFM filing window), including whether there will be obligations placed on LPFM operations for specific amounts of local program origination.
The FM translator issue has been a long and contentious one. In 2003, during the last FM translator window, thousands of applications for FM translators were filed. LPFM advocates have contended that the grant of these applications would preclude LPFM opportunities. After processing applications for a couple of years, the FCC froze the processing of all the remaining applications, and in 2007 announced that applicants would only be able to prosecute 10 of their remaining pending applications. There were many objections filed to that decision. Last year, the FCC announced a much more granular process for determining which translator applications could be processed, looking on a market-by-market basis at the prospects of LPFM interference, and deciding that translator applications would only have to be dismissed where interference limited LPFM opportunities for a given number of LPFM stations. The Commission also decided that a cap of 50 applications should be imposed on the number of applications that one entity could continue to prosecute, and limited applicants to prosecuting one application per market. See our summary of the FCC decision on the translator-LPFM issues here. These issues are all subject to petitions for reconsideration.