On February 22nd, 2012 FCC Audio Chief Peter Doyle was a panelist at the annual National Religious Broadcasters Conference at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville. The first question concerned LPFM and translators with several related follow-up questions. The FCC plans in the next six to nine months to start processing frozen translator applications (starting in rural areas) and simultaneously open an LPFM Window. Apparently the Audio Division has made its recommendations and the proposed rulemaking is "at the Commission." Pundits believe the Rulemaking will be voted on by the Commission at its April meeting.When asked about 10 watt LPFM's Doyle commented, "LPFM groups are not satisfied with 100 watts, they want 250, not 10 watts." Apparently getting permission from OMB and other procedural matters will be the reason for any further delays; the FCC is "moving forward to helps both translator applicants and future LPFM application.P.S. When NAB President Gordon Smith spoke Sunday night at a Policy Banquet, hesupported NRB concerns about threats to Freedom of Speech, Press, and Religion."Thanks to John Broomall for the FCC update from this years NRB convention.
Much internet chatter indicates we would expect to hear from the FCC on two major policy issues that are the result of years of work by Nexus Broadcast and supporters like you. The FCC will be releasing its final rules to preserve channels for community radio in urban areas, as well as new proposed rules that will shape the future of the Low Power FM (LPFM) radio service. Those new LPFM rules should be codified later this year at which time the FCC will be announce an application filing window, when groups can apply for new LPFM radio stations.
'Austin Airwaves Predicts 10,000 Applicants'
The Audio Division of the Federal Communications Commission confirmed to Austin Airwaves on January 20th
that the Commission is “shooting for the Fall” for the opening of the highly-anticipated ‘window’ for applications for new Low Power FM (LPFM) educational radio stations. The previously-reliable government source asked not to be named. Another source outside the Commission, long familiar with the LPFM issue, stated she thought that the FCC wanted to get “the ‘process rolling’ before the presidential election."Austin Airwaves predicts that nationwide there will be as many as ten thousand applications for the new LPFM licenses.When asked if he felt this number was a good guestimate, the FCC source said, “We never know what a particular demand will be until we open a window. We have stopped conjecturing about how many applications there may be. It depends in part on supply and demand, availability of spectrum in major markets. There are “mysterious, serendipitous aspects to it.” The “new second adjacent rules” contained within the Local Community Radio Act (LCRA) “certainly has opened up more channels.”Noting past incidences when the FCC’s servers have crashed under the load of hundreds of applications, Austin Airwaves asked if the “FCC servers are up for the job.” “Absolutely! But, “Nobody should be filing in the last 15 minutes of the very last night” of the application process. “But will some people do that? Oh yeah, absolutely!” , “I’m not sure of the capacity of the FCC servers. They have had problems in the past. We support having multiple windows for different regions of the country because of the limited number of engineers and lawyers who are qualified to help organizations apply. Breaking up the windows makes it easier for everyone to have access to them. Regardless of whether or not the FCC will have multiple windows, groups should waste no time in preparing to apply for a construction permit”Many engineering firms and LPFM advocacies such as Nexus Broadcast are gearing up for an application window before the presidential election this year. We are helping groups prepare to apply during a potential five day window, most likely in September or October.”
Clear the Way For LPFM, Here we Come!
“I could see anywhere from five to ten thousand applications submitted nationally.” The FCC’s Proposed Rule Making (PRM) regarding translators is expected later this month. It will finally resolve the questions as to what to do with thousands of translator applications remaining from the 2003 application window. Translators are low power FM stations that carry an existing station’s signal into other areas. They operate on the same frequencies as LPFMs. Community radio groups have been advocating protecting these frequencies for local, community and minority applicants, especially in larger markets. Depending on the number of frequencies made available after the PRM, “a significant number of frequencies could be made available, especially in major markets.”After a decade of effort by community radio advocates, the Local Community Radio Act (LCRA) was passed by Congress on December 20th
, 2010 and signed into law by President Obama on January 5th
, 2011. With only days to go before the end of the session, Austin Airwaves played a key role in the lifting of the so-called “secret hold” in the Senate. Once the hold was lifted, the full Senate voted on the LCRA, passing it by a wide margin. Advocates for the LCRA fought years of strident opposition from National Public Radio and the National Association of Broadcasters. At the National Conference for Media Reform in Boston, Congressman Mike Doyle (D-PA) praised the years of work by LPFM advocates.Reprinted from Radio-Guide Magazine of which our founder is a regular contributer. Leo Ashcraft is CEO of Nexus Broadcast “Broadcast Outside The Box!”. He is a broadcast consultant with over 28 years engineering experience and an avid LPFM advocate for over 15 years. More information at NexusBroadcast.com or 888-732-3599 Free subscription at http://radio-guide.com
We previously provided an overview of the Local Community Radio Act of 2010 (LCRA), and the rule changes that the law requires the FCC to make in response. Changes to the level of protection that LPFM stations must provide to full-service FM stations and FM translators were discussed, along with ambiguous language relating to the establishment of priority of LPFM stations in relation to pending FM translator applications are awaiting resolution through a rulemaking proceeding.
The Local Community Radio Act, signed by President Obama last year, repealed restrictions on low-power FM stations, or LPFMs. The law required the FCC to study whether additional community stations hurt large stations.Recently The Commission concluded the economic impact study, indicating whether LPFM stations will economically impact full-service FM stations. While LPFM stations are noncommercial, the FCC noted, through the underwriting and sponsorship of programs, revenue that may have previously been directed to full-service FM stations in the market may be redirected to LPFM stations. The report released found LPFM radio stations do not impact the ratings or revenue of commercial stations. Surprisingly was the study indicated the LPFM stations may actually help the effected commercial stations overall revenue."Our final conclusion is that the analysis finds no statistically reliable evidence that LPFM stations have a consistent effect on the economic performance of full-service commercial FM stations,"That is the conclusion of a 106-page report that has been submitted to the US Congress. The study found no statistically significant ratings impact from LPFMs in most cases, and where there was impact, the amount was insignificant. Additionally the report showed very little if any impact on revenues. In fact parts of the study indicated the full power station actually increased revenues where an LPFM was added to its coverage area. The only significant decline in revenues was found where LPFMs duplicated commercial formats were in religious station revenues. The FCC stated the difference was caused by "spurious correlation," with the study unable to account for factors other than the LPFM.Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), who sponsored the Local Community Radio Act said; "The study confirmed the widespread belief that LPFMs don’t cause economic harm or interference to other stations," "In fact, if you talk to the folks in the regions that already have LPFM stations, they say LPFMs have had a very positive impact. They provide programs that reflect and enrich local cultures.From compiled information in its own as well as a commercial database, the Commission found that LPFM stations serve primarily small and rural markets and have geographic and population reaches that are magnitudes smaller than those of full-service commercial FM stations.The study observed eight LPFM stations to provide a snapshot of LPFM’s overall effect. Even though the stations differed considerably in its individual programming and operation, the results of the case studies show that the LPFM stations generally broadcast a wide variety of programming, operate with very small budgets, rely on part-time and volunteer staff, do not have measurable ratings, have limited population reach, and do not generate significant underwriting earnings. Most of the station operators said that their LPFM station is not competing directly for listeners of full-service stations.The FCC said that the Act did not specifically require a study of the economic impact of interference and, since the principal purpose of the Act was to determine how the FCC should deal with interference remediation, Congress had already addressed all that needed to be considered about any potential interference. The inclusion in previous legislation of a specific directive to study interference, which led to the report from the MITRE Corporation, further supported this. The MITRE report concluded that there would be no substantial interference from LPFM to full-power stations, which opened the door to the passage of the Act. Considering this, the Commission reached the conclusion that no additional study of the economic impact of LPFM was necessaryThis clears the way for the Commission to put in place new LPFM rules and subsequently open a new LPFM filing window later this year. Previously the FCC has unofficially stated a Summer 2012 filing window possibility. This would be the second filing opportunity for new LPFM stations nationwide. Stay tuned to Radio-Guide as we watch and report further LPFM 2.0 developments this year.Re-printed from Radio-Guide Magazine. Leo Ashcraft is CEO of Nexus Broadcast. He is a broadcast consultant with over 20 years engineering experience and an avid LPFM advocate. More information at NexusBroadcast.com or 888-732-3599
The FCC is busy working on new low-power FM rules in light of December's Community Radio Act of 2010 that allows elimination of third-adjacent channel protections for full-power FMs to fit new LPFMs on the band.Audio Division Chief Peter Doyle said, "We've done extensive market-by-market analysis" about where new low-power stations could be allocated. The protection changes will "provide meaningful opportunities for LPFMs" even in large markets, he told attendees of "The FCC And You" session at the NAB Show in Las Vegas.Some parties argued the cap is ineffective to provide spectrum relief in the largest markets, and unnecessary in the smaller markets where's there's ample spectrum for both LPFMs and translators, Doyle said . He added that if the FCC agrees, "It means we'll have to go back to the drawing board and think about a translator processing policy that does a better job of ensuring that licenses will be available in the largest markets."Asked after the session by Radio World when the LPFM rulemaking could be completed, Doyle said the item "is deep into the process" and he hopes its ready "in weeks, not months."It sounds like the commission is rethinking its proposed FM translator cap for frozen translator applications, previously announced in anticipation of opening a new LPFM application window.
President Signs The Local Community Radio Act
On Tuesday, January 04, 2011, the President signed into law:
H.R. 6533, the “Local Community Radio Act of 2010,” which modifies current restrictions on low-power FM radio stations;Next the FCC will need to open a rule making proceeding which would take aproximatly 60 days after which time a filing window would be announced! After more than ten years waiting many new LPFM radio stations across the country will now have an opportunity to file this year! Now is the time to act if you wish to apply for an LPFM station for your community in the upcoming window.Check back for details on this developing story.
FCC News Flash: The FCC Plans to open a new filing window Summer 2012! Act now to have your application prepared and ready to file. The windows can be short (5 days) and notice limited (30 days). Engineering companies get busy with LPFM clients once a window is opened. Radio engineers availability is difficult and pricing increases substantially. Get started now if you want to operate a new LPFM station in 2012!
Senate Passes LPFM Bill
In a late-Saturday afternoon vote the Senate passed by unanimous consent a bill that clears the way for hundreds, perhaps thousands of new LPFM stations. At the NAB’s urging the Community Radio Act was amended to include new spacing requirements and make full-power stations the primary service in a community of license. The House passed the bill Friday, and it’s now headed to President Obama’s desk.The bill will expand community radio nationwide – the Local Community Radio Act – passed the U.S. Senate, thanks to the bipartisan leadership of Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and John McCain (R-AZ). This follows Friday afternoon’s passage of the bill in the House of Representatives, led by Representatives Mike Doyle (D-PA) and Lee Terry (R-NE).
These Congressional champions for community radio joined with the thousands of grassroots advocates and dozens of public interest groups who have fought for ten years to secure this victory for local media. In response to overwhelming grassroots pressure, Congress has given the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) a mandate to license thousands, of new community stations nationwide. This bill marks the first major legislative success for the growing movement for a more democratic media system in the U.S.The Local Community Radio Act will expand the low power FM (LPFM) service created by the FCC in 2000 – a service the FCC created to address the shrinking diversity of voices on the radio dial. Over 800 LPFM stations, all locally owned and non-commercial, are already on the air. The stations are run by non-profit organizations, local governments, churches, schools, and emergency responders.The bill repeals earlier legislation which had been backed by big broadcasters, including the National Association of Broadcasters. This legislation, the Radio Broadcast Preservation Act of 2000, limited LPFM radio to primarily rural areas. The broadcast lobby groups claimed that the new 100 watt stations could somehow create interference with their own stations, a claim disproven by a Congressionally-mandated study in 2003.Congressional leaders worked for years to pass this legislation. As the clock wound down on the 111th Congress, they worked with the NAB to amend the bill to enshrine even stronger protections against interference and to ensure the prioritization of full power FM radio stations over low power stations.Though the amendments to the bill will require some further work at the FCC, low power advocates celebrated the first chance in a decade for groups in cities, towns, and other communities to take their voices to the FM dial.
House Passes 2010 Local Community Act
The U.S. House of Representatives today passed HR-6533, a 2010 version of the Local Community Radio Act by voice vote.
This amended version of the LCRA was negotiated between LPFM advocate organizations such as Prometheus Radio Project and the National Association of Broadcasters who had allegedly used influence to block LPFM legislation from passing.
The key differences between the new HR-6533 and the previous bill HR-1147 includes:
- The new bill specifies that protection will be given to co-channel, first adjacent and second adjacent channels.
- The new bill allows for a second-adjacent waiver that permits stations to be placed on second adjacent channels upon showing a technical showing that no interference will be caused. This process calls for the LPFM station to remediate any interference that takes place on a second adjacent channel by immediately suspending operations and working with the interfered station to resolve the issues.
- LPFM stations as well as translators and boosters will remain at an equal level. This means that translators obtained through the "Great Translator Invasion" would be treated no differently than any other translator. An LPFM station would not be able to "bump" a translator under this legislation.