Interesting times for LPFM

November 24th, 2007 | by Andrew Ó Baoill |

These are interesting times for LPFM. First, a bill to allow LPFM on ‘3rd adjacent channels’ has just passed a US senate committee. Those familiar with the service will probably know that the original FCC proposal for an LPFM service, back in the 1990s, was subsequently amended by Congress after established radio lobbies (NAB and, shamefully, NPR) persuaded Congress that there would be ‘oceans of interference’ if LPFM stations were allowed into operation. As phlegm explains at DIYmedia the original FCC proposal had involved allowing LPFM stations as long as they might not interfere with channels on the same or adjacent channels – the compromise passed by Congress severely limited the number of LPFM stations possible by extending that requirement to the second and third adjacent channels on each side, the same standard as is used for full-power stations.

Subsequent research established that LPFM could not cause the problems claimed by NAB. Now Liz Berg at WFMU notes that bill S.1675 (the Local Community Radio Act) has moved out of the Commerce Committee:

Prometheus Radio and Free Press are encouraging LPFM supporters to write to their representatives in support of S.1675.

Thanks to Kate for the pointers.

The other bit of news in LPFM policy this week is the move from the FCC to amend its LPFM rules at its next meeting this coming Tuesday (27th November). No word yet as to what the exact shape of those new rules will be, but the Prometheus Project has clear ideas as to what it wants to see:

As the commission works at its November 27th meeting to make decisions about the future of LPFM, they must lay the groundwork to ensure that LPFM will not only be available in rural areas in the future. They must also protect the low power stations from losing their frequencies to full power stations that encroach upon their signals, and threaten to knock them off the air.

One of the larger issues at play is the glut of translator applications, currently on hold, which were made after Congress blocked LPFM from the third adjacent channel. And so Prometheus argue:

The FCC has frozen the granting of translator licenses for the time being, to investigate the practices of these chains and to balance the priority of distant translator use with the needs of local radio. The FCC cannot move to lift the current freeze on the granting of licenses to these translator chains without prioritizing local radio over these distant-fed translators.

For those wondering just how big of a glut this is:

In that 2003 window, a single translator applicant applied for 2500 licenses to broadcast, nationwide. One radio station currently has 792 translator applications repeating its signal.

The FCC aren’t currently accepting comment from the public – there’s a block in advance of rule-making – but watch this space, and groups like Prometheus, for word on just how events at the FCC and in Congress develop. In the meantime, as mentioned above, do encourage members of Congress to support S.1675.

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