LPFM: "The Little Engine That Could"
The FCC to date has granted more than 1,200 low-power
FM applications from the recent filing window, and dismissed hundreds of others.
Division officials gave commissioners an update on LPFM processing at
open meeting. The agency received 2,826 applications for new LPFMs since the
window closed Oct. 15, 2013. That
compares to 3,250 applications filed in the 2000-2001 time-frame.
Audio Division Deputy Chief of
Engineering Jim Bradshaw told RW the agency hopes to have the tougher cases,
the disputed applications, sorted out by year-end.
commissioners lauded the bureau’s efforts on LPFM, with Commissioner
Rosenworcel calling the expanded service “the little engine that
could.” (Read the text of her statement below.)
Ajit Pai said the FCC worked much faster in granting 1,200 CPs in six months compared to the
four years it took the agency to process that many applications in the
first LPFM window.
Pai said he hopes the agency will bring the same speed to the
AM revitalization effort. He called on his colleagues to act by October on
six proposals contained in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. Asked by
Radio World if the commission might move on some ideas sooner than
others -- specifically the proposed window to allow AM owners to apply for FM
translators -- Pai said they’d probably need to work on all of them at
the same time.
Chairman Tom Wheeler was effusive in his praise for the quickness of the
bureau’s work on processing the LPFM applications. Asked by
Radio World if
Pai’s timeable for AM seems doable, he said the FCC is“working
with all expeditious speed. I think the bureau done an amazing
job to get through the translator applications and then through the LPFM
applications. That shows the level of management and intensity that’s
brought to this issue.”
The bureau worked through thousands of FM
translator applications before focusing
the text of the statement by Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel:
"The history of low-power FM radio has a lot in
common with a familiar tale. That’s because the story of low-power FM is the
story of 'The Little Engine That Could.'
It begins at the turn of the millennium. In 2000, the Commission first
authorized the creation of low-power FM stations to provide noncommercial,
educational, and local groups with the opportunity to provide a community-based
radio service. But that same year, Congress passed legislation delaying the
removal of third-adjacent channel separation requirements and requiring the
agency to study interference issues just a little more. That might sound like a
small thing. But it had big impact, limiting the agency’s ability to issue
licenses for community broadcasting, especially in urban areas. So the low-power FM locomotive was stopped in its tracks with tough terrain ahead.
"But a stalwart group of legislators fought to change the law.
Senator Cantwell, Senator McCain, Representative Doyle, and Representative
Terry banded together and developed legislation to change those restrictive
adjacent channel requirements and make it possible for low-power FM stations to
be heard everywhere. So, over the course of not one, not two, but three successive
Congresses, the Local Community Radio Act was introduced, introduced again, and
introduced again. The third try was the charm. I know, because I spent quite a
bit of my time as staff on the Senate Commerce Committee helping get this
legislation over hills and signed into law.
"So, as the
story goes, hard work and optimism has its rewards. The bipartisan group of legislators
who disregarded the naysayers and thought they could do more with low power FM—
actually did. I think it was worth the effort. Because there is something
special about a voice in the air. One that rises above the din and provides
local radio with unique character. And in these days of exploding global online
content, there is still great value and art in community broadcasting.
"With more low-power FM, we are going to hear more of that
local character. Just this week, I got the privilege to speak to KWEM in West
Memphis, a new station with an historic call sign that is bringing rockabilly
and blues back to its home along the Mississippi River. I also spoke to KPYT in
Tucson, which serves the Pascau Yaqui tribe and provides programming that
sustains its unique language, traditions, and culture. So low-power FM possibilities
are powerful—and at long last, the legal framework for its expansion is in
place. I, for one, can’t wait to hear this little engine roar."