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The Next Steps for Prometheus, et al

Advocacy groups listened to feedback; may withdraw some objections, says Prometheus engineering director

Regardless of whether you feel rancor or respect for their recent moves, there’s no doubt that Prometheus Radio Project’s filings and objections have made headlines and spurred a conversation about the needs of low-power FM stations.

Reactions were swift and decisive to a filing submitted by Prometheus and two other advocacy groups in May — in which the groups called on the Federal Communications Commission to take action on hundreds of applications from full-power stations seeking to extend their coverage with repeater stations.

A few days later, Prometheus was in the headlines again when the FCC issued a firm ‘no’ in an earlier but totally separate filing. In 2017, Prometheus argued against a commission decision not to formally define distance limits on the siting of cross-service translators for AM stations. (In objecting to that ruling, Prometheus called the FCC’s arbitrary and contrary to the goals of the Local Community Radio Act.)

[Read: LPFM Advocates File Objections to Nearly 1,000 Applications]

After the FCC dismissed Prometheus’ earlier objection (which was not related to the 998 filings, the subject here), several industry observers wondered aloud whether the mass filing of those objections may have had a hand in resolving the first Prometheus petition.

When asked for insight on the new ruling that came down from the FCC, Prometheus Engineering Director Paul Bame called the dismissal “disappointing.”

“Neither Prometheus nor the three organizations filing the 998 [informal objections] have insight as to whether this disappointing dismissal of Prometheus’ Petition for reconsideration is connected with our informal objection filing,” Bame said.

Since both attempt to protect LPFMs from translators and both mention the LCRA, the issues at hand are interrelated, he said.

“While my colleagues believe there are various flaws in the dismissal, it remains to be decided whether a Prometheus appeal is the next step,” he said.

However, Bame said that Prometheus, the Center for International Media Action and Common Frequency have listened to comments coming from the industry. In response to some of that feedback, he said, the groups will review in detail some of the construction permits to which its informal objection may actually not apply.

“[We] will likely be withdrawing some in the near future,” he said.

The advocacy groups moved to file their informal objections because they want to see action taken against noncompliant translators and applications.

“Even if we won on appeal and the FCC accepted both our AM-related and LCRA-related arguments in the petition, it wouldn’t likely result in them taking action against the noncompliant translators and applications,” Bame said.

“In short, it wouldn’t in the short term protect any LPFMs even if we won, but we think our objections might,” he said.

Soon after the filing of nearly 1,000 objections by the three advocacy groups, industry observers called the move clumsy and an abuse of FCC processes.

“The coalition blew up the ship and the life boats too,” Steve Moravec with Phoenix Media Group told Radio World. “We personally have no animus toward the LPFM community as their micro services do provide small platforms for voices needing to be heard. Work on your underwriting, not messing with the radio industry.”

Others said that the advocacy’s group’s LPFM arguments are not even about the FM translator applications themselves.

“It is rather with the FCC’s underlying settled rules and policies,” John Garziglia, a partner with Womble Bond Dickinson told Radio World. “They know that the FM translator applications will be held hostage to the LPFM proponents’ issues if the FCC accords the mass informal objections cognizance.”

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