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FCC Acts on LPFM, FM Translators

Targets October 2013 to open LPFM application window

The FCC today passed more rules to help expand the low-power FM service.

At the same time the commission has explained how it will treat the some 6,000 pending FM translator applications.

It plans to open a filing window for new LPFMs on Oct. 15, of 2013.

The agency bumped up the national cap on pending FM translator applications that one entity can pursue from 50 to 70, as long as no more than 50 are in the top 150 markets. It relaxed the local cap of one application per entity to up to three applications one company can pursue in more rural markets.

The agency also relaxed the criteria for LPFMs seeking a waiver for second-adjacent channel spacing requirement in order to locate a new LPFM, something NAB and NPR had urged the commission to avoid except in very narrow circumstances.

The agency is releasing mapping tools for LPFMs to help them find open channels, and for the first time, releasing the source code. 

The commission passed a compromise that adds a main studio requirement for LPFMs and retains the eight-hour-per-week program requirement. It did not act on the LP250 watt proposal.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said the decisions today will help the creation of “thousands” of local community stations and the decision allows LPFM and FM translator services to complement each other.

The chairman revealed that he had been a nighttime DJ at his college station, who went by “The Midnight Rambler.”

He pledged the commission would make the process of applying for an LPFM as easy as possible.

The Prometheus Radio Project, which led the grassroots coalition that pushed Congress to pass the Local Community Radio Act of 2010, said the new rules will mean LPFMs can be located in urban areas for the first time. Prometheus urged those who want to apply for a station to start preparing now.