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LPFM Bill on Senate Voting Calendar

Legislation that would open door to more FM stations appears closer to reality

Pro-LPFM group Prometheus Radio Project says the legislation that would eliminate third-adjacent channel protections in order to fit more low-power stations on the FM band is poised for a vote.

The Senate Commerce Committee has reported S.592 out of committee and the measure is now on the Senate voting calendar.

“With the reporting phase of the legislation complete, we expect quick movement to pass this bill through unanimous consent,” Prometheus told its members in a newsletter update.

If passed, the measure would eliminate third-adjacent minimum distance separation requirements between LPFMs and full-service FMs, FM translators and FM boosters. Stations that air radio reading services would be exempt from the changes.

The third-channel limits would remain in markets with more than 3 million homes and a population density greater than 1,000 per square mile, according to the according to the Senate Committee, which made changes to the bill.

The committee approved language that would remove the rules against former pirates obtaining LPFM licenses, likely to make this even more contentious for broadcasters. And it removed a provision in the previous version of the bill that would have directed the FCC to test whether LPFMs will interfere with existing FMs if minimum distance separations for third-adjacent channels are not required.

Retained in the bill is a provision requiring the FCC to conduct an economic study on the impact that LPFMs will have on full-power commercial FM stations.

The House passed its version of the LPFM bill in December, and it is not identical. If the Senate version passes, the final version might look somewhat different than either.