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FM Translators, LPFM on Tap at FCC Later This Month

Agency has big plans for both services

The FCC is taking a step towards eventually adding more low-power FMs to the dial. We’ve reported the agency has been wrestling with a version of the “chicken or egg” dilemma: what to do with the thousands of pending FM translator applications yet still carve out frequencies for new LPFMs.

At its March 21 public meeting, the agency plans to consider a Report & Order detailing how it will handle FM translator applications that have been pending since 2003 and consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on LPFM.

The commission plans to implement a market-specific FM translator processing scheme. It remains to be seen if that’s been modified since the proposal it floated last year in which the agency planned to reserve between five to eight LPFM frequencies per market and accept FM translator applications for those markets once the LPFM minimum had been met.

Don Schellhardt, spokesman of the Amherst Alliance, an LPFM proponent, believes members would support processing new LPFM applications before pending translator applications.

John Broomall, owner of Christian Community Broadcasters, an LPFM consultancy, is hoping the agency allows simultaneous processing of translator and LPFM apps “in order to not delay this any further.”

His biggest concern, he said, is “if the FCC dismisses a large number of FM translator applications which were validly filed in 2003 and were grantable, I predict there will be lawsuits that say the FCC doesn’t have the authority to throw out applications.” That could further delay getting more LPFMs allocated, he worries.

The commission said yesterday in a notice about the public meeting it would also adopt application caps to prevent trafficking, as well as modify policies to expand opportunities to rebroadcast AM stations on FM translators. Currently, AMs doing this need to apply for Special Temporary Authority.

The commission will also consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding proposals to implement the Local Community Radio Act. While the act calls for eliminating third-adjacent channel protections for full-service FMs to enable the allocation of more LPFMs, the agency is considering implementing second-adjacent channel waiver procedures, interference remediation requirements, and modification of eligibility, ownership and selection standards.

Full-Service FMs, LPFMs Battle for Spectrum