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FCC Proposes Tribal Priority for New FM in Wisconsin

Commission requests comments on amending FM Table of Allotments

The FCC has long tried to increase the number of Native American voices in media in the United States. Now, a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) released this week by the commission could increase the number of Tribal stations in this country by one. 

The Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians (LDF Tribe) is seeking the allotment of Channel 225A at Lac du Flambeau, Wis., as a first local service utilizing a Tribal Priority.

The FCC says the LDF Tribe has met all requirements for new service, but it first wants to collect comments on its proposal. Lac du Flambeau is a census-designated place (CDP) in Vilas County, Wis., with a 2020 U.S. census population of 1,845 persons. The LDF Tribe says that the proposed new station will be the first local tribally-owned commercial full-power service at Lac du Flambeau since no full-power broadcast stations are licensed to the community.

The tribe contends that the new FM station will serve 98.9% of the tribal population and 96.3% of the reservation area within the 70 dBu contour. 

The audio bureau’s staff engineering analysis indicates that Channel 225A can be allotted to Lac du Flambeau, Wis., consistent with the minimum distance separation requirements of the commission’s rules, with a site restriction of 12.1 km (7.5 miles) northwest of the community.

The engineering analysis confirms that the Tribal Reservation would cover 3,518 persons, of whom 3,480 persons (98.9%) reside on the Lac du Flambeau Reservation, according to the FCC.   

If the allotment is added, a filing window will be opened for qualified Tribal applicants to apply for a construction permit to build and operate FM stations in the aforementioned community. 

“Upon award of a Tribal Allotment, within a reasonable period of time, the commission will release a public notice announcing a Threshold Qualifications Window, during which any qualifying applicant will be afforded the opportunity to file FCC Form 2100, Schedule 301-FM for the channel allotted as a Tribal Allotment,” the FCC says in the NPRM.

The LDF Tribe, which is a federally recognized tribe, told the FCC it will participate in the ensuing filing window. 

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The FCC adopted rules in 2010 to establish a Tribal Radio Priority. The commission’s goal was to help Native Nations establish new radio service for Tribal lands. 

The FCC says in the NPRM the rationale for the rule change in 2010 was that “the establishment of an allocation priority for the provision of radio service to tribal lands by Indian tribal government-owned stations will advance the commission’s goals and serve the public interest by enabling Indian tribal governments to provide radio service tailored to the needs and interests of their local communities that they are uniquely capable of providing.”

Native American reservation-owned and operated radio stations represent many of the indigenous peoples of North America, including the Lakota, Navajo, Comanche, Chippewa, Cherokee, Arapaho, Hualapai and Hopi nations, according to the FCC.

However, fewer than 100 broadcast radio stations are licensed to Tribes or affiliated groups in the United States, according to Native Public Media (NPM).

Many Native stations are noncommercial entities dependent upon local community fundraising and the help of volunteers to survive, according to NPM. Some also rely on funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Those interested in filing comments on the notice of proposed rulemaking (RM-11965, Docket No. 23-302) can do so through the FCC’s Electronic Comment Filing System. Comments can be submitted through Oct. 30. Reply comments are due Nov. 15.

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