Low-power FM radio advocates file 1,000 Objections with FCC

Low-power FM radio advocates file 1,000 FM with FCC
California and Pennsylvania, USA

May 17, 2018

Advocate groups Center for International Media Action, Common Frequency, Inc, and Prometheus Radio Project are filing objections to over 1000 applications by full-power stations which seek to extend their coverage with repeater stations. These repeaters, also known as FM translators, can fit in similar spaces as low power radio. Low-power FM radio stations (LPFM) and FM translators compete for space on the FM dial, and there are few or no remaining opportunities in urban radio areas.

In 2011, the Local Community Radio Act (LCRA) was signed into law. Congress ordered the FCC to make sure that urban areas had opportunities for LPFM and translator applications, and that the two types of radio facility be treated equally. The FCC then carefully and responsibly modified their translator processing procedures so that applicants could show that they were honoring the LCRA. Some full power owners, who had applied for many hundreds of repeaters of their signal across the country, were forced to choose their top fifty and dismiss the rest, so that there would be room for LPFM stations. There have been just two very short windows to apply for new LPFM radio stations, separated by 13 years.

“The FCC audio division did a good job of honoring the will of Congress in 2013, and was even-handed in it’s treatment of LPFMs and translators. But since 2014, something switched and they have allowed a giant spectrum grab by repeaters without regard to future LPFM opportunities. The Congressional mandate is still in force, but seems to have been forgotten by the FCC,” said Paul Bame, of the Prometheus Radio Project.

Advocates’ study shows that while Congress ordered parity between LPFM and translator facilities, in many cities in the US there are 10, 20, and even 40 times more population and square miles covered with translator service than LPFM service.

“The FCC was supposed to be the referee between the interests of stations that wanted to extend their coverage with repeaters, versus new LPFMs wanting to get a start in broadcasting. And from 2011 to 2013, they got it right. Unfortunately the referee has stepped off of the field, and incumbent owners are grabbing up everything they can, hoping no one will remember Congress’ mandate. But the rule of law still applies, and the FCC is bound by the orders that Congress gave it,” said Todd Urick, of Common Frequency. “Our objection to these 998 applications is a reminder that there was no sunset on compliance with this law in 2014—it is still on the books and must be obeyed. Urban LPFM was never supposed to be a one-time-only opportunity, while translators get multiple bites at the apple.“

LPFM radio stations are a relatively new class of FM radio station formed by the FCC around the year 2000. They are required to be locally owned, noncommercial, and with a reach of less than 4 miles, need community support in order to thrive. Almost 2,400 licensed LPFM stations exist across the US.

FM translators repeat the signal of an existing FM station, or an AM station, so it can be heard on the FM dial. This has become quite important lately to AM station owners. AM reception quality is deteriorating and their listenership is declining so they acquire FM translators in order to get their broadcast on the FM dial. Their interests must be balanced equally against low power applicants, who by definition are new entrants to the market, who have never had any station or listeners. At present there are approximately 9,000 licensed FM translators in the US.

Common Frequency, the Prometheus Radio Project, and Center for International Media are service and advocacy groups for grassroots community radio -- in particular low-power FM radio.

Contact:

Paul Bame, Prometheus Radio Project, info@prometheusradio.org, 215 727 9620 x505

Clay Leander, Common Frequency Inc. clay@commonfrequency.org 510 858 4097

References:

Copy of the Informal Objection,

https://www.prometheusradio.org/sites/default/files/InformalObjectionsPendingTranslators-20180516.pdf

Prometheus Petitions FCC to Protect LPFMs from Big-AM-Station Translators,

https://www.prometheusradio.org/prometheus-petitions-fcc-protect-lpfms-big-am-station-translators

LPFMs Boxed in by New AM Translators https://www.prometheusradio.org/lpfms-boxed-new-am-translators

The Local Community Radio Act,

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Local_Community_Radio_Act

FCC introduction to FM Translators,

https://www.fcc.gov/media/radio/fm-translators-and-boosters

FCC introduction to Low-power FM Stations,

https://www.fcc.gov/media/radio/lpfm