FCC Makes Changes In LPFM Rules
November 28, 2007 at 3:07 PM (PT)
After a long delay, the FCC finally got down to business with an open meeting on TUESDAY, and the Commission voted to change low-power FM rules in a move it says will promote the stations' growth. Among the changes, the Commission will allow some transfers of LPFM licenses subject to "significant limitations." The FCC is also reinstating the rules limiting ownership to local entities (one station per licensee), defining local origination by disallowing "repetitious, automated programming," and encouraging voluntary time-sharing agreements between applicants.
In addition, the FCC is imposing an application cap on 2003 FM translator window filers, and is limiting LPFMs' responsibility to resolve interference issues with later-authorized full-power stations. The Commission has tentatively concluded that full-power stations must provide technical and financial assistance to LPFM stations when the full-power station is applying for a facility change that would increase interference to the LPFM. and will recommend to Congress that it end third-channel interference protection for full-power stations from LPFMs. A Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking will be opened to take comments on the interference proposals.
Commissioner MICHAEL COPPS voiced his approval in a concurring statement, saying, "This item makes good progress in putting LPFM on a firmer foundation. In particular, I welcome the decisions on ownership and eligibility that will ensure that LPFM retains its local character; the initial steps we take to limit the preclusive effect of existing translator applications on LPFM; and the initial steps we take to protect LPFM from full-power station encroachment. But we have a lot of work ahead of us."
Commissioner DEBI TATE dissented from the Order's limitation of 10 FM translator applications per applicant, saying that she prefers a "more measured approach" rather than an 80% cut. ROBERT MCDOWELL dissented from the new processing policy ("premature"), the additional protection for LPFMs from changes to full-power facilities (:The majority should not have reversed this precedent without at least seeking further public comment"), and the cut for FM translator applications.
The NAB's EVP DENNIS WHARTON weighed in by saying, "We look forward to reviewing the final text of the Commission's action, which will provide broadcasters with a better understanding of the rules going forward. However, in general, NAB is pleased the Commission clarified that LPFM stations must indeed be locally-owned with locally-originated programming, and limits ownership to one station per licensee."
On the issue of the FCC considering granting enhanced stature to LPFM, WHARTON added, "We share the concerns expressed by Commissioners TATE and MCDOWELL about the Commission's decision to adopt interim processing guidelines without full notice and opportunity for comment, but we look forward to working with the Commission to find a solution that works for all."
On the recommendation by the FCC to Congress to eliminate 3rd adjacent channel protections, WHARTON said, "Though this is a recommendation identical to one made several years ago by the FCC, NAB continues to believe that statutory third-adjacent channel protections are critically important to protect listeners against interference. The idea that hundreds, if not thousands, of additional LPFM stations can be shoe-horned into an overcrowded radio dial without causing considerable interference simply defies the laws of physics."