Kyle Magrill, sticking up for translators, has some ideas for the FCC about improving the LPFM service in light of changes brought on by January’s Local Community Radio Act. Among them: Make use of 10-watt stations in populous markets.
Magrill is a principal in CircuitWerkes, which makes broadcast equipment and has commercial FM translator applications pending in the Auction No. 83 FM translator filing window. In comments in the LPFM proceeding, Magrill laid out some proposals.
“Numerous comments have stated or suggested that the only way to assure spectrum for LPFM is to dismiss some or all of the existing translator applications that are still pending from Auction 83, nearly eight years ago,” Magrill wrote. “In the most recent third Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the commission is considering precisely this approach.”
Magrill believes wholesale dismissal of pending translator applications would be “imprudent and unnecessary” and could lead to lengthy delays caused by litigation “resulting from the FCC changing translator processing policies in mid-stream.”
He thinks the FCC’s evaluation of markets (on which future LPFM/translator outcomes would be based) is flawed and potentially unfair to translator applicants.
“Most noteworthy is the fact that the study employed only spacing criteria embodied in the current rules, with the exception that third-channel adjacency restrictions that were eliminated in the LCRA. The staff’s study did not account for the use of D/U ratios to allow LPFM stations to use second adjacencies, which is permitted under the LCRA. The use of contour methods for using channels with regards to LPFM vs. translators was also not considered even though the LCRA now only requires spacing protections between LPFM stations and full-service FM stations.”
Magrill thinks the FCC research may actually “grossly underestimate” the number of available LPFM slots in a given market, “and gives an unfair representation that will cause translator applications to be unnecessarily dismissed.” He wants the FCC staff to redo its market study.
Magrill believes the FCC also is missing the boat by not making use of 10-watt LP-10 stations. He submitted a sample study of the top five markets, showing that such LPFM stations could reach “extraordinary” numbers of people.
“We believe that LP-10s is the preferred type of facility, especially in larger markets. This is not only because they can be placed where LP-100 stations cannot, but also because many LP-10 stations can often be fit on a single channel within a market.” While acknowledging that his research was limited, he said, “This study does demonstrate that, in a lot of cities, more available LPFM channels can be found than was revealed in the FCC study … [and] many of them are quite potent in terms of the number of people served.”
He would like the FCC to open a filing window for LP-10 stations, especially in the largest markets, and also allow LPFM stations to upgrade to LP-100 or downgrade to LP-10 as desired.
He made several further recommendations.
He said the FCC should remove second-adjacency restrictions between LPFM and translators and between all facilities operating at 250 watts or less; remove IF protection requirements for all stations operating at less than 101 watts; allow existing LPFMs to change channels to any open frequency as a minor mod; allow time-share LPFM operators to apply for individual channels that open as a result of the new law; and allow intermediate power levels for LP-100 stations for contour methods with respect to translators and other LPFMs. And he wants the commission to tweak its rules involving how far LPFM stations can move.
Magrill said demand for LPFM service should not be used to trample the rights of translator applicants. He wrote that translator applicants in general have been unfairly tarred with an invisible “scarlet letter” as merely speculators and traffickers. “While it is true that some of the largest application filers have sold many of their construction permits, most applicants built their translators.”
And he said many critics have mischaracterized most of the noncom applications as so-called “satellators” — which, he added, may serve legitimate purposes in any event.