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LPFM Market ‘Tiers’ Proposed

Commission sets up a possible procedure to settle translator issues

To resolve the question of how many new low-power stations and FM translators can fit in each market, the FCC has proposed LPFM “channel floors” in each market, based on market size.

It also proposes to dismiss all pending FM translator applications in markets where there’s not enough spectrum for low-power stations, but to process translator applications in markets that meet the LPFM channel “floor” criteria.

This is all part of the new Third Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.

The proposed tiers are eight LPFMS in the top 20 markets, seven LPFMs in markets 21–50, six LPFMs in markets 51–100 and five LPFMs in markets 101–150.

“We studied every market,” FCC Audio Division Chief Peter Doyle told Radio World. The commission placed a grid over city coordinates and studied all 100 FM channels at each grid point for LPFM availability in the top 150 radio markets.

“In each market we identify the number of channels that continue to be available for LPFM licensing. We also identified the number of LPFMs operating in these core locations.” If those two numbers add up to at least the market “floors,” the commission proposes to process pending translator applications, according to Doyle.

According to the text of the notice, “Only channels that fully satisfy co-, first- and second-adjacent channel LPFM spacing requirements to all authorizations and applications, including pending translator applications, are treated as available.” 

However, going by this formula, about half of the pending translator applications in the top 50 markets would be dismissed.

The FCC published a list (PDF) of where the FCC has proposed dismissing or processing pending FM translator applications and how many LPFMs could theoretically go into each market.

Not only is the FCC asking for comment on its “channel floor” proposal, it’s also asking the public to weigh in on proposed settlement processes to handle the approximately 6,500 currently pending FM translator applications.

All of the 6,500 are in contention with at least one other application for the same spectrum. The commission is asking for comment on the translator settlement process in so-called “process-all” markets to ensure the number of available LPFM channels in those markets is not reduced. Restricting applicants from amending their applications to specify adjacent channels and/or different transmitter locations may be necessary, according to the agency. The translator settlement process normally allows both.

Another option the commission has raised is whether it should dismiss all pending FM translator applications and make plans for a joint window for both LPFM and FM translator applications. However, the agency states this approach would raise “overwhelming practical and legal difficulties.”

Prometheus Radio Project Policy Director Brandy Doyle told Radio World at the FCC meeting this week, “It seems like they’ve done an exhaustive review of data. Getting LPFM in urban markets has been what we’ve fought for for 10 years.”