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Translators, LPFMs Have FCC’s Attention

Commission tentatively ready to release third NPRM at July meeting

It seems the FCC may have a radio item teed up for its next public meeting.

iStockphoto/Rafa Irusta

The commission has been trying to figure out the mechanics of allocating more low-power FMs since Congress passed the Local Community Radio Act last December.

That measure instructed the FCC to drop third-adjacent channel protections for most existing full-power FMs, to squeeze more LPFMs onto the FM band. Noncommercial FMs carrying radio reading services are exempt from the change.

The FCC also rolled out an extensive interference complaint and mitigation procedure as a result of the law.

But still to be determined is the relationship between LPFMs and FM translators when it comes to new allocations. Now it appears the commission is poised to take comment on what to do with the hundreds of pending translator applications as it prepares eventually to open the next LPFM application window.

As part of its published tentative agenda for the July 12 meeting, the FCC lists a third Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking comment on the impact of the Local Community Radio Act on the future licensing of low-power FM and FM translator stations. If that item remains on the agenda (never a sure thing), commissioners would discuss and then vote on it.

In general, translator applicants believe their pending applications should have priority over any new LPFM allocations while LPFM proponents say there’s a lot of pent-up demand for new allocations because there hasn’t been a new LPFM application window for quite some time.

FCC officials eventually intend to open a new LPFM application window but have not put a timeframe on that goal. Presumably the LPFM vs. translator priority question needs to be resolved first.

— Leslie Stimson

LPFM: So What Happens Now?” (Feb. 2011)