Should LPFMs Bump Translators?

Now that low-power FM is established, should it be licensed as a primary, rather than secondary, service?
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Now that low-power FM is established, should it be licensed as a primary, rather than secondary, service?

The FCC is trying to decide whether new LPFMs should be licensed as a primary service - and potentially gain priority over existing and future FM translators in terms of licensing and interference concerns. LPFMs and translators are both considered secondary services now. Meanwhile, the commission is sorting through thousands of translator applications resulting from the last filing window, when it was deluged with requests.

LPFMs and FM translators vie for the same spectrum; right now, the translators have priority because those applications have been filed while there is no new application filing window scheduled for LPFMs.

The licensing question for LPFM is one of many technical and ownership changes the FCC is considering to rules that govern the low-power service. The agency is also asking whether LPFMs should be allowed to stay on the air where interference is predicted to occur within the 70 dBu contour of second- or third-adjacent channel full-service FMs authorized in the future.

The commission in March temporarily stopped accepting new FM translator applications while it considers changes to the LPFM rules.

Public comments have begun trickling into the agency. The items had yet to be published in the Federal Register in early May; comments were to be due 30 days upon publication of the Second Order of Reconsideration and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (MM Docket 99-25.)

The following are excerpts of some of the public comments. At press time, only proponents had filed.

(I)t is the duty of the FCC to provide listeners with the opportunity for new voices to be heard on LPFM stations. I do not believe the argument that these small stations really take away from the transmission of larger, more powerful stations. ...

The FCC should take the painstaking process to avoid allowing one large media group or small interest group to gobble up all of these LPFM stations. We should allow for a variety of interest groups to be able to address their small listening audiences.

The FCC should investigate each claim for LPFM stations based on the interest group it will attract. I think it is absurd to allow one interest group of any kind, be it religion or sports etc., to have a monopoly of the LPFM stations.

- Nicholas Kolentse Boston College Chestnut Hill, Mass.

We must not forget that low-power FM was created so that new voices, not just the wealthy, would have access to radio in our country. All commercial FM owners are in fact very rich. Their licenses are worth millions of dollars and can be turned into fast cash.

Low-power broadcasters are not wealthy. They are Americans who love radio and they serve their communities for that love and not the love of a buck.

We must now protect the little guy from the big guy.

* LPFM must be reclassified and given the same rights as the Big Boy broadcasters.

* LPFM stations serve their communities. They should be protected in allocations. They should not have to move or go off the air for some wealthy broadcaster.

* LPFM broadcasters should have the same right to upgrade their station class and make upgrades as the big boys.

* LPFM is noncommercial. Let's keep it that way.

* LPFM stations licenses should be able to be reassigned to other not-for-profit groups or educational institutions.

- Bruce Quinn Columbia, Ind.

Should LPFM license be transferable?

(Colquitt Community Radio) believes that LPFM license or construction permits should be transferable only when special circumstances arise. There are times when the applicant cannot construct the station because of limited funds or other reasons. However, these applicants should not be allowed to profit beyond the actual expense of their application.

Should ownership be limited to local entities?

Since the LPFM service is designed to be community radio, why would the commission even consider allowing anyone outside the community (to) own the facility? The restriction of local ownership should remain in place.

Should the commission prohibit multiple ownership of LPFM stations?

We believe that the commission should not allow multiple ownership of LPFM facilities. This is community radio for the owner's specific community. We feel that multiple stations would be used as repeaters instead of community stations.

Should the construction period be extended?

Only in certain documented cases such as zoning issues. We applauded the commission's decision to permit minor change distance to be extended to 5.6 kilometers. This should allow any permit holder that is experiencing zoning issues to move their transmitter site to an acceptable location.

Grant LPFM stations primary status over FM translators

Yes. The recent translator filing window greatly reduced the available spectrum available to true community radio. Since a few groups have circumvented the commissions rules regarding applying for facilities that it never intended to construct, the commission should dismiss all the pending applications filed during the recent translator window. The commission should grant LPFM facilities primary status over FM translators.

Personal comment:

Colquitt Community Radio Inc. applauds the recent FCC decision to freeze further processing of translator applications. CCR urges the commission to use the available manpower that was being used to process translator applications to eliminate the backlog of NCE applications.

The commission has had a freeze in place on new NCE facilities over five years. This ridiculous. We understand that court challenges have delayed action; however, the courts dismissed those challenges several months ago. It is time the commission lift the freeze on new NCE stations. The five-year freeze actually denies access to public airwaves and should be lifted at once.

- Clyde Scott Jr., PresidentColquitt Community Radio Inc. Moultrie, Ga.

I am one of the original petitioners who requested the establishment of the low-power FM radio broadcasting service (Petition for Rulemaking RM-9208 July 7, 1997). I am a certified electronics technician (ISCET and NARTE) and a licensed Extra Class amateur radio operator (call sign N3NL). I am also an inventor holding three U.S. patents.

My comments are directed at the commission's question: "Should all LPFM applications have primary status because LPFM stations are permitted to originate local programming?"

The basic purpose of the LPFM radio broadcasting service is to allow local community-based broadcasting. These small radio broadcasting stations are intended to allow local events such as school board meetings and town council meetings to be broadcast. LPFM also presents local news and bulletin coverage.

In addition, local musicians, poets, rappers, actors and authors have the opportunity to present their works on the air to the community. The bottom line is that LPFM allows local material to be available on the air.

Translators are broadcast stations that relay program material from other areas into a community. Translators are anything but local. This basic purpose of translator stations is directly in conflict with the purpose of the LPFM radio broadcasting service.

LPFM applications and existing LPFM stations must have primary status. LPFM stations must have priority over translator stations so that the local service of the LPFM stations is protected. Without this protection, the large broadcasting organizations will easily displace or block local LPFM service with nationally networked program content broadcast by translator stations. Since large organizations already dominate almost all of the broadcast media, protection must be provided to LPFM stations so that some local material will be available to listeners.

In return for this protection, the LPFM stations should actually broadcast local programs. The commission can certainly require this as a condition for granting primary status. However, requiring a "pledge to originate locally at least eight hours of programming per day" may be too strict a requirement.

Requiring six hours of locally originated programming per day may be more realistic for a newly established station. Alternatively, a limited local requirement could be imposed for the first year with an increased requirement in subsequent years.

Requested action for the survival of the LPFM service: Provide primary status for the LPFM radio broadcasting service applications.

- Nickolaus E. LeggettReston, Va.

Related

NAB Weighs in on AM Translators

The 1,125 AM stations that operate at secondary, very low power levels at night would be among the beneficiaries if the FCC allows AMs to use FM translators as proposed. That’s according to NAB.