LPFM on The March
Jul 1, 2014 9:00 AM, Lee Petro
At the June FCC Meeting, the Audio Division of the Media Bureau reported on its work in processing the 2,826 Low Power FM (LPFM) applications filed during the November 2013 filing window. Both by processing the applications that do not conflict with other applications filed during the window (singletons), and by working through the conflicting applications, the FCC”s staff expects to complete all of the processing by the end of 2014.
First, with respect to the singleton applications, the FCC staff reported that over 1,200 applications have been granted. Of those granted singleton applications, eight were for communities in the Top 10 markets, 15 were in markets 11�20, and 53 applications were granted in markets 20�50. All told, the number of LPFM stations in the top 50 markets has nearly doubled, from 81 LPFM stations prior to the November 2013 filing window, to 157 stations thus far. With an additional 483 applications still pending in the top 50 markets, it is likely at the total number of LPFM stations in the top 50 markets will grow to well over 200 stations when the dust settles.
Next, there are approximately 406 groups of at least two conflicting applications that remain to be processed. Previously, the FCC opened a window for these applications to reach settlements and/or technical solutions to resolve the conflicts. Now, the FCC”s staff is working on three separate orders, to be spread out over the next six months, to name tentative selectees from amongst the groups. The tentative selectees will be chosen based on the representations made in their applications on the �point system� factors, and in some cases, will be resolved by a tie-breaker.
The naming of the tentative selectees will trigger a 30-day period of time for the other parties in that group of conflicting applications to file a petition to deny against the application. In the past non-commercial filing windows, petitions were filed when it was discovered that the tentative selectee had not obtained reasonable assurance of site availability, or that the applicant had provided incorrect information in support of its corporate status or location of its headquarters.
The FCC”s staff indicated that they will be releasing three different orders, which can be expected to be geographically-based. This is due to the fact that the orders will also open a window for applicants to submit major change amendments to their applications, along with a 90-day window for applicants to enter into settlement agreements among the applicants.
In this context, a major change application would be a channel change that was more than 3 channels from the channel specified in the application, or a change of tower site or community of license whereby the proposed location would not conflict with the community or site location specified in the application. Because the FCC does not want to create new conflicts, it has determined that incrementally resolving conflicting groups based on geography will reduce the chance of a land-rush and the creation of new conflicts.
After the FCC staff presentation, Commissioner Ajit Pai commented that he hopes that the FCC would immediately initiate a filing window for AM licensees to submit applications for FM translator facilities after the FCC has dealt with the LPFM applications. That proposal is part of the AM Modernization rulemaking for which comments were filed earlier this year. Commissioner Pai has been interested in opening a window for new FM translators as a means to invigorate the AM service.
July 10, 2014 – 2nd quarter Issues/Program Lists must be placed in public inspection files.
August 1, 2014 – Stations in California ,Illinois, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Wisconsin must place Annual EEO Reports in public file.
August 1, 2014 – Noncommercial Radio stations in Illinois and Wisconsin must file Onwership Report (FCC Form 323E) with FCC.
Petro is of counsel at Drinker Biddle & Reath, LLP.