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LPFM News: 6 More Stations; Questioning HD On LPFM

Six more low-power FM construction permits were issued this week, brining the total to 1302. But the big news is that the FCC released the list of 111 MX groups of applicants competing for frequencies in 24 eastern states and the District of Columbia.

Yesterday Matthew took a quick look at what could turn out to be some curious and interesting time-sharing arrangements. Time-sharing happens when the FCC is unable to declare a winner amongst competing applicants because they all have the same number of points that awarded for things like keeping a publicly accessible local studio, or promising eight hours a day of locally originated programming.

Commercial HD on LPFM? Not So Fast.

Last week I mentioned the audacious proposition that LPFM stations might adopt HD Radio and then use one of the digital subchannels to broadcast commercial services. While the author of that commentary quotes an FCC official who said that there are no rules against such an arrangement, REC Networks’ Michi Bradley published a blog post this week that deconstructs the FCC rules that would likely apply.

In essence Bradley argues that a noncommercial station may only broadcast commercial services on a subchannel if that subchannel is only accessible via specialized receivers, and not available to the general listening public. Such existing analog services include Muzak and reading services for the blind. HD Radios, she argues, don’t count. Even though HD radios aren’t common, they are easily purchased. As well, the additional digital TV channels that came with the digital transition are counted as broadcast by the FCC, making it likely that HD-2 and HD-3 channels and FM would be similarly classified.

Bradley also comes to a similar conclusion on the practicality that I argued last week: the maximum of 10 watts that can be dedicated to an HD signal on LPFM just isn’t worth it to begin with.

I think new LPFM stations would be well advised to focus on creating the best local service they can, rather than be distracted by the temptation of having additional digital, but obscure, ultra-low-power channels.

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