How About Translators for LPFMs?
Do LPFMs have a place in the translator
REC Networks, an LPFM advocate and
service provider, is asking the Federal Communication Commission to let those low-power
stations participate in one of the translator auction windows that are planned in
2017 to benefit AM stations.
REC wrote in a
Feb. 2 filing that the commission’s choice to limit the FM translator windows to AM stations is contrary to tenets
of the Local Community Radio Act that expanded
the LPFM service.
“While REC does support an auction
filing window for new translators to be adjunct to Class C and Class D AM
stations, we feel that the ‘needs of the local community’ have not been fully
addressed in accordance with … the LCRA,” REC stated. “An evaluation of the ‘needs
of the community’ would have demonstrated that there is a ‘community need’ for
FM translators that exceeds the needs of AM stations and extends to other local
services such as LPFM stations.”
Four translator windows
are scheduled as a result of the AM revitalization order. The
first opened last week and allows Class C and D AM stations — the “lower-powered
and/or service-limited” occupants of the band — to acquire and relocate one non-reserved-band
FM translator by up to 250 miles, and specify any non-reserved band FM channel,
through a minor mod application. The second widens that opportunity to other
AMs. The third and fourth windows, to be held in 2017, will give AMs that don’t
apply in the first two windows a chance to seek new FM translators at auction,
again with Classes C and D going first.
REC would like LPFMs to
have their shot as part of that third window. This
would give LPFMs their first opportunity to obtain translators to help better
cover the communities they serve, Bradley told Radio World. Unlike full-power NCE
counterparts, she said, LPFMs are subject to additional restrictions on
commonly owned translators. “I have heard from many LPFM operators that
can benefit from a translator to be able to fill in the rest of their county or
to better serve a part of town not well covered by the current LPFM station,” she
said. “With the migration of existing FM translators from rural and suburban
areas to more urban areas, this opens up spectrum for new translators in these
To be consistent with the AM windows and
to prevent speculation, REC proposes that LPFM stations be able to obtain one
translator in the window consistent with rules in place. The translator would
be permanently attached to its LPFM station and could not be split off, REC wrote.
“It is our hope that the FCC realizes that there is a need for
LPFM translators and there is a way to implement this [and give] every
commercial AM station an opportunity to obtain a translator,” Bradley said. The
change would have no impact on the availability of translators for AMs, she
said, and would provide LPFMs a chance to improve their services.
LPFM licensee John Broomall expressed agreement. “There have
only been two opportunities to apply for LPFM stations: the initial 2000–01
window cycle and … a second window in the fall of 2013,” said Broomall, licensee
of WPCG(LP) in Canton, Ga., and co-founder of the group Christian Community
Broadcasters. “There should be spectrum left, after the AM revitalization
translator windows, for more LPFM stations, particularly in smaller markets.” A
future window would also allow major modification moves by existing LPFM
broadcasters, he said.
Existing filings on the
Revitalization of the AM Service Order can be found in the FCC’s Electronic
Comment Filing System under proceeding number 13-249.
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