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LPFM vs. FM Translator Sorting Begins

FCC follows several initial determinations from July, modifies others

The FCC has begun to make some decisions to sort out what to do about the thousands of pending FM translator applications in preparation to open the next licensing window for low-power FMs later this year.

The commission has now adopted several of the tentative decisions it reached last July. Some 6,500 translator applications remain pending from the 2003 window and the commission says it’s going to need to dismiss large numbers of them in the top 150 markets to ensure there’s enough room to license both LPFMs and translators. “The next LPFM window presents a critical, and indeed a last, opportunity to nurture and promote a community radio service that can respond to unmet listener needs and underserved communities in many urban areas,” states the FCC in its Fourth Report and Order and Third Order on Reconsideration, released last night.

The agency has adopted a market-specific FM translator processing approach previously proposed with a few changes.

Likely the change that will be most-watched by full-service broadcasters, is the commission’s adoption of a national cap of 50 translator applications and a market-based cap of one application per applicant per market for the most “spectrum-limited markets.” The commission feels the caps will minimize the potential for license speculation. The previously proposed national cap was 10 translator applications per entity.

The agency has revised its spectrum availability analysis to better identify and protect areas with significant population where it believes LPFM service would be most practical and sustainable.

The FCC is allowing more AMs that want to operate on FM translators to do so. The agency is removing the May 1, 2009 date restriction from pending FM translator applications that are eventually approved so they can rebroadcast the signals of AMs.

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