LOW POWER FM RADIO SERVICE
|January 10, 2002||Posted by Staff under Progress Report, The Progress Report|
Democracy and Freedom Score a Victory
FCC APPROVES NEW NON-COMMERCIAL LOW POWER FM RADIO SERVICE
Finally, after long debate and struggle, the FCC has decided to allow a new class of small radio stations. New stations were opposed by the current owners of broadcast airwave privileges, who are among America’s largest corporate welfare queens. But the welfare queens’ lobbyists were defeated this time.
Despite their lobbying against free markets and against democracy, the corporate welfare queens were defeated.
Nevertheless, this FCC initiative is far smaller, and more restricted, than it should be. We need much more of this. Here is the official FCC announcement.
Washington D.C. — The FCC today voted to create a class of radio stations designed to serve very localized communities or underrepresented groups within communities by authorizing two new classes of noncommercial low power FM radio services (LPFM).
In authorizing the new services – (1) LP 100, with power from 50-100 watts and a service radius of about 3.5 miles; and (2) LP10, with power from 1-10 watts and a service radius of about 1 to 2 miles – the Commission said it is adopting interference protection requirements based on distance separation between stations to preserve the integrity and technical excellence of existing FM service and to not impede the ability of existing radio stations to transition to digital transmission capabilities.
The Commission said the new service would enhance community-oriented radio broadcasting. Broad national interest in LPFM service was demonstrated by the thousands of comments received from state and local government entities, religious groups, students, labor unions, community organizations, musicians, and others supporting the introduction of a new LPFM service.
The Commission said that to prevent interference, it will impose station separation requirements between new LPFM and existing radio stations on co-, 1st- and 2nd- adjacent and intermediate frequency (IF) channels, but will not impose 3rd adjacent separation requirements because the engineering data and tests in the proceeding demonstrated that 100 watt LPFM service will not cause any unacceptable levels of interference to existing radio stations separated by three channels.
Applicants for new or modified LP100 or LP10 facilities will be required to meet minimum station separation distances to protect the service contours of (1) authorized commercial and noncommercial FM stations of all classes; (2) existing FM translator and booster stations and any LP100 stations; and (3) full-service FM, FM translator and LP100 facilities proposed in applications filed before a public notice announcing any LPFM application filing window.
The Commission said a noncommercial service will be the best way to bring additional diversity to radio broadcasting and serve local community needs in a focused manner with LPFM stations. Eligible licensees can be noncommercial government or private educational organizations, associations or entities; non-profit entities with educational purposes; or government or non-profit entities providing local public safety or transportation services. However, LPFM licenses will be awarded throughout the FM radio band and will not be limited to the channels reserved for use by noncommercial educational radio stations
The Commission said that to further its goals of diversity and creating opportunities for new voices, no existing broadcaster or other media entity can have an ownership interest, or enter into any program or operating agreement, with any LPFM Station. In addition, to encourage locally originated programming, LPFM stations will be prohibited from operating as translators.
To foster local ownership and diversity, during the first two years of LPFM license eligibility, licensees will be limited to local entities certifying that they are physically headquartered, has a campus or has 75% of their board members residing, within 10 miles of the station they seek to operate. During this time, no entity may own more than one LPFM station in any given community. After two years from the date the first applications are accepted, in order to bring into use whatever low power stations remain available but unapplied for, applications will be accepted from non-local entities.
For the first two years, no entity will be permitted to operate more than one LPFM station nationwide. After the second year, eligible entities will be able to own up to five stations nationwide, and after three years, up to ten nationwide.
LPFM stations will be licensed for eight-year, renewable terms. These licenses will not be transferable. Licensees will receive four-letter call signs with the letters LP appended.
Applications will be accepted in designated filing windows. The first filing window to be opened will be for LP100 licenses. After the bulk of these applications have been processed, the Commission will open a filing window for applications for LP10 licenses. The Commission said it expected opportunities to remain for LP10 stations.
The Commission will announce in a subsequent Public Notice a designated five-day filing window for LP100 applications after the effective date of the LPFM Order, which will be 60 days publication of this Order in the Federal Register. The Commission said the filing window system is preferable to a first-come/first-serve filing system that could disadvantage potential applicants. Electronic filing is permissible but not mandatory.
Mutually exclusive applications for the same license will be resolved by a clear-cut selection process awarding applicants one point each for (1) certifying an established community presence of at least two years prior to the application, (2) pledging to operate at least 12 hours daily, and (3) pledging to air at least eight hours of locally originated programming daily. Time sharing proposals will be used as a tiebreaker if applicants have the same number of points. Where ties have not been resolved, a group of up to eight mutually exclusive applicants will be awarded successive license terms of at least one year for a total of eight years. These eight-year licenses will not be renewable.
Eligible licensees will be subject to the same character qualifications as are currently applied to full power licensees. The Commission said that entities that had broadcast without a license in the past could apply for LPFM licenses if they certify (1) that they had voluntarily ceased engaging in unlicensed operations no later than February 26, 1999, without specific direction from the FCC, or (2) that they had ceased engaging in unlicensed operations within 24 hours of being advised by the Commission to do so. Entities who continued illegal broadcasting will be ineligible for any broadcast license.
LPFM stations will be required to broadcast a minimum of 36 hours per week, the same requirement imposed on full power noncommercial educational licensees. They will be subject to statutory rules, such as sponsorship identification, political programming, prohibitions of airing obscene or indecent programming, and requirements to provide periodic call sign announcements, and will be required to participate in the national Emergency Alert System.
LPFM stations will not be subject to the FCC’s main studio, ownership report and public file requirements. The Commission said it expects that the local nature of the LPFM service, coupled with the eligibility and selection criteria being adopted, will ensure that LPFM licensees will meet the needs and interests of their communities, and thus LPFM licensees will not be subject to a locally originated program requirement.
Subsequent information on the LPFM application process will be available on the FCC’s website at www.fcc.gov/mmb/prd/lpfm or interested parties can call the FCC’s toll free telephone number 1-888-CALLFCC (1-888-225-5322).
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