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Are you “bona fide”? Eight fun factoids from the FCC’s Low Power FM decision

If you want to understand the Federal Communications Commission’s ground breaking Low Power FM decision, your first stop is Paul Riismandel’s nice summary of the Order, posted earlier this week. I just thought I’d rummage through the document and see what additional fun tidbits and further details I could extract for my own interest, and perhaps yours.

1. Interference complaints must come from “bona fide listeners”:

Shades of Brother, Where Art Thou? As Paul mentioned, the FCC says it will only accept interference complaints (protests that an LPFM is screwing up reception for another station) from “bona fide listeners.”

What are “bona fide” listeners?

a. They’re not radio “station personnel.” b. They’re “disinterested,” that is, “without a legal stake in the outcome” of a licensing proceeding. c. They provide their “name and address, and the location at which the interference occurs.” d. Their complaint must be received “within one year of the date an LPFM station commenced broadcasts with its currently authorized facilities.”

2. May we have your attention . . .

In the first year of broadcast, all new LPFM stations must make something like the following announcement on a “periodic” basis:

On (date of license grant), the Federal Communications Commission granted (LPFM station’s call letters) a license to operate. (LPFM station’s call letters) may cause interference to the operations of (third-adjacent channel station’s call letters) and (other third-adjacent channel stations’ call letters). If you are normally a listener of (third-adjacent channel station’s call letters) or (other third-adjacent channel station’s call letters) and are having difficulty receiving (third-adjacent channel station call letters) or (other third-adjacent channel station’s call letters), please contact (LPFM station’s call letters) by mail at (mailing address) or by telephone at (telephone number) to report this interference.

3. Keep away from Canada!

If LPFMs are within 320 kilometers of the Canadian border, they must stay at least 4 kilometers away from Canadian radio stations, and in some instances as far as 124 kilometers away in the case of LPFMs operating on the same frequency.

4. Keep away from Mexico!

Similarly, if LPFMs are within 320 kilometers of the Mexican border, they must stay at least 3 kilometers away from Mexican radio stations, and in some instances as far as 110 kilometers away in the case of LPFMs operating on the same frequency.

5 . . . and watch yourself, Virgin Islands:

“The Commission will notify the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) of any LPFM authorizations in the US Virgin Islands. Any authorization issued for a US Virgin Islands LPFM station will include a condition that permits the Commission to modify, suspend or terminate without right to a hearing if found by the Commission to be necessary to conform to any international regulations or agreements.”

6. Win FCC brownie points if you “originate locally!”

Editors note: As the REC comment  below observes, you don’t have to be original and local to get a license, but you have to meet the originality/localness criteria that follows to receive a point for such in the application process. Same kind of one point bonus for having a main studio (item 7).

Your LPFM must pledge to “originate locally” at least eight hours of radio fare each day to win extra application points. What makes your station local?

a) It comes from “within ten miles of the coordinates of the proposed transmitting antenna.”

b) It includes “licensee produced call-in shows, music selected and played by a disc jockey present on site, broadcasts of events at local schools, and broadcasts of musical performances at a local studio or festival, whether recorded or live.”

c) It does not include “the broadcast of repetitive or automated programs or time-shifted recordings of non-local programming whatever its source.”

d) It also does not include “a local program that has been broadcast twice, even if the licensee broadcasts the program on a different day or makes small variations in the program thereafter.”

7. Win more points with a “main studio”!

Your main studio must have:

  • “local program origination capability”
  • be reachable by telephone, staffed at least 20 hours a week between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.
  • in the top 50 urban markets be located within ten miles (16.1 kilometers) of your proposed site for the transmitting antenna
  • in all other markets be located within twenty miles of your proposed site for the transmitting antenna

8. Many translators never get built:

Opponents of Low Power FM have long argued that they need the spectrum for translators—extensions of their base signals to new markets. But (big surprise) many never get built. Here’s what the FCC disclosed in its Order.

When the Commission opened the March 2003 filing window for Auction 83 FM translator applications, there were 3,818 licensed FM translators. 13,377 translator applications were filed in that window – approximately three times as many applications as the number of FM translators licensed since 1970. From that group, 3,476 new authorizations were issued before the Commission’s freeze on further processing of applications from that window took effect.

Of those 3,476 authorizations, 926 (more than 25 percent) were never constructed and 1,358 (almost 40 percent) were assigned to a party other than the applicant.

That’s why the FCC has placed caps on translator applications (thank you 🙂 ) . . .

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One Response to Are you “bona fide”? Eight fun factoids from the FCC’s Low Power FM decision

  1. Michi Eyre December 10, 2012 at 8:33 am #

    On these observations…

    #2 – REC is fighting this one. The way the rule was written was that all LPFM stations *except those that do not meet third-adjacent channel minimum spacing* will have to broadcast announcements and if the rule is followed to the letter, the announcement must include every FM radio station on a third adjacent channel everywhere in the country (even any in American Samoa). I feel that the FCC got this backwards. I feel that this provision (which first appeared in the 2009 LCRA) was intended for LPFM stations that do not meet third adjacent channel guidelines and therefore not allowed under the old rules but now allowed under the new rules.

    #3 & #4 – The international spacing tables for Mexico and Canada have been in the rules since day one. Actually, you will find that the spacing towards foreign FM stations is shorter than spacing towards domestic stations. This is due to the buffer zone. One thing that we need to remind potential applicants is that any LPFM station placed within 125 km of the Mexican border will be limited to 50 watts at 30 m HAAT. This is not mentioned in the rules but is in the USA/Mexico agreement where it refers to “LPFM” stations. Actually, “LPFM” stations in the letter of this agreement include LPFM and translators. Translators are allowed directional antennas and therefore they can limit radiation towards Mexico and operate fuller facilities in other directions.

    For info on LPFM near the Mexican border, see:

    #5 – LPFM stations in the US Virgin Islands must protect FM stations in the British Virgin Islands however the rules do not codify those specific restrictions. This is another provision that has been in the rules since day one. The FCC database does contain SOME information for the BVI. REC has published this fact sheet in to describe the differences for LPFM stations in Puerto Rico and the USVI including why PR/VI has a different spacing table than the mainland. See:

    #6 – LPFM stations who pledge to operate local programming as you describe are able to claim a preference point (73.872(b)(2)).. Those who do not broadcast local programming are still eligible under 73.853(a) but they will not be able to claim the preference point and therefore would be more likely to be dismissed.

    #7 – Same thing here. The FCC has *not* implemented a main-studio rule for LPFM. Like #6, this is a preference point. REC actually proposed this main studio point as a way to reward applicants who pledge to have not just a voice but also a face to their community through the interaction with the public that is provided through a main studio. If you want to run your LPFM station behind closed doors, that is OK.. but you will not be able to claim a preference point.

    #8 – You are spot on. The three-to-a-market and 50/70-cap are to address the mass-filing by a small number of entities while still allowing smaller operators who did not have speculation on their mind to continue to build their regional networks. This is why REC became a party in the partial reconsideration that increased the per-market limit from 1 to 3.

    Michi Eyre

    founder, REC Networks

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