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FCC reaffirms that there will be no 10-watt LPFM stations

FCC LogoToday, on its first day back at work, the FCC released a Sixth Order on Reconsideration of its Sixth Report and Order on low-power FM. Basically, this means the FCC received a number of filings challenging LPFM rules, along with suggestions and requests for clarification. While today’s order mostly reaffirms the status quo for LPFM, the Commission says it released this order because it is in the public interest to formally explain why it is rejecting most of these requests, while making some minor modifications.

Perhaps most significantly, in today’s order the FCC reaffirmed the elimination of the 10-watt LP10 service, in addition to reifying its rejection of a suggested 50-watt (LP50) service. When the FCC eliminated the LP10 service, it reasoned that such stations would not have large enough broadcast area and audience to be economically sustainable.

A number of groups subsequently challenged the Commission’s reasoning on the LP10 issue, also urging that a level of service at or below 50 watts should be available. The group Let the Cities In (LTCI) argued that the very low powered LP10 service would still reach a substantial audience in densely populated “urban core” areas where available spectrum is so limited that even an LP100 will not fit on the dial.

The FCC rejected LTCI’s arguments, standing by its original justification that LP10 station in such areas would be “susceptible to interference” and to other obstructions that would impede reception, such as “such as natural and man-made structures that lie between the transmitter and the receiver.” The Commission also notes that this same reason is why it ceased licensing 10-watt class D stations in 1978.

The Commission also rejected the reasoning that LPFMs operating at 50 watts or less would be just like translators operating at those power level. The FCC said the services are not equivalent because translators do not originate programming nor do they requires a staff to operate. These facts make translators more economical to operate under the aforementioned technical compromises than a full-service LPFM.

The FCC also provided a little clarification to the rules governing how a new LPFM must protect this input to a translator from interference. Many translator repeater stations receive their audio program from a full-power station’s over-the-air broadast, which the translator then rebroadcasts.

Even though it was released on October 17, this order was actually adopted on September 30, one day before the government shudown. Therefore it does not address the delay of the LPFM window nor the request to delay the LPFM application deadline.

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