Low Power FM potential applicants, start your engines. The FCC has announced the long-awaited window for the filing of applications for new LPFM stations. The window will last from October 15-October 29. During this period, nonprofit organizations and governmental organizations will have the opportunity to file for new stations on any FM channel anywhere in the country – as long as they don’t interfere with existing FM or FM translator stations (or channel 6 TV stations which operate on a channel adjacent to the FM band). The FCC has done a great job in processing the remainder of the applications from the 2003 FM translator window, announcing a settlement window for applicants in that proceeding that is open through July 22, to be followed by an auction. Substantially completing the processing of those translator applications has cleared the way for the upcoming LPFM window.
Two FCC Commissioners issued statements hailing the upcoming window and the opportunities that it will present for encouraging more diversity in the media marketplace (see statements of Acting FCC Chair Clyburn and Commissioner Pai). A number of groups that have actively championed LPFM also applauded the opening of the window, some trumpeting plans for workshops across the country to help people prepare for the filing opportunities. We hope that expectations are not being unduly raised. Particularly in larger markets, as the FCC itself has recognized, there will be only very limited opportunities for LPFM applicants, as there is very limited spectrum in those markets not already occupied by FM stations or close enough to existing stations to create interference. As the LPFM rules require that new stations protect existing FM stations from interference on co-channels and first and second adjacent channels, in large markets, there will be little room for new LPFM stations. Groups thinking about opportunities in those markets need to be prepared to face competition for the few channels that may be available and to be realistic – as there will be many places where no channels will be available to serve a particular part of a metropolitan area.