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.


Continue Reading LPFM Slowing Processing of Full Power FM Stations

At last Thursday’s Public Hearing on multiple ownership in Chicago, about which we wrote here, a statement was read by a spokesman for Presidential candidate Barack Obama.  According to press reports, the statement expressed the candidate’s positions favoring shorter license renewal terms for broadcasters so that they would be subject to more public scrutiny, as well as criticizing the FCC for allowing broadcast consolidation.  These thoughts essentially echo the comments of FCC Commissioner Copps, especially on the subject of license renewal terms, whose views we wrote about here.  While many press reports have asked if this statement by Senator Obama foreshadows the broadcast ownership debate becoming part of the presidential campaign issues, we worry that it may signal a far broader attack on broadcasters during the upcoming political year.  The statement by Senator Obama is but one of a host of indications that broadcasters may face a rash of legislative issues that are now on the political drawing boards.

Broadcasters make easy targets for politicians as everyone is an expert on radio and television – after all, virtually everyone watches TV or listens to the radio and thus fancies themselves knowledgeable of what is good and bad for the public.  But those in Congress (and on the FCC) have the ability to do something about it.  And, with an election year upon us, they have the added incentive to act, given that any action is bound to generate at least some publicity and, for some, this may be their last opportunity to enact legislation that they feel important.  We’ve already written about the renewed emphasis, just last week, on passing legislation to overturn the Second Circuit’s decision throwing out the FCC’s fines on "fleeting expletives" and making the unanticipated use of one of those "dirty words" subject again to FCC indecency fines.  Clearly, no Congressman wants to be seen as being in favor of indecency (look at the rise in the indecency fines to $325,000 per occurrence which was voted through Congress just before the last election), and First Amendment issues are much more nuanced and difficult to explain to the voter, so watch this legislation.


Continue Reading One Sign That Broadcasters Are About to Become Political Footballs – Obama Suggests Shorter Broadcast License Terms and Less Consolidation

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

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?

The FCC, after taking two years off, is looking to finish their field hearings on Localism by scheduling a hearing in Portland, Maine on June 29.  This hearing is not one of the six hearings to discuss possible new multiple ownership rules, but instead a continuation of the hearings started by Chairman Powell after public controversy over the 2003 multiple ownership rules.  In an ironic twist of fate, this public notice was released on the Friday before the National Association of Broadcasters Educational Foundation hosts their Service to America Awards Dinner to honor broadcasters and the public service commitment that they have to their communities.  Thus, while the FCC is looking in the hinterlands for evidence of the responsiveness of the broadcast industry to the needs of their listeners, some of the best evidence of that service was on display some 12 blocks from the FCC’s headquarters.

The Localism hearings were part of a larger proceeding begun in response to the controversy after the 2003 multiple ownership rules.  When the Democratic Commissioners, Congressional legislators from both parties, and a variety of citizen’s groups from across the political spectrum complained about how the public’s input was not sought before the rules were adopted, the FCC tried to respond to some of those complaints by putting out a Notice of Inquiry on Localism.  The proceeding was to assess how well broadcasters were serving their communities, and the Notice asked for public comment on a grab bag of issues including the following:

  • whether a broadcaster’s public interest obligations should be quantified (bringing back obligations abolished in the 1980s that required specific amounts of the programming of broadcast stations to be devoted to news and public affairs programming), 
  • should broadcasters be required to play specific amounts of local music,
  • is payola a major issue,
  • whether more programming should be devoted to political campaigns
  • whether the voices of minorities were being heard on the airwaves.
  • if the FCC should authorize more LPFM stations and take other steps to make airtime available to new entrants


Continue Reading Another Localism Hearing and Service to America