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LPFM Watch: 19 applications for new community radio in the Second City

LPFM WatchWe’ve reviewed LPFM applications in Los Angeles and San Francisco, so in this week’s LPFM Watch it’s time to dive into apps from the nation’s Second City, Chicago. I also take a look at the current count of applications that have been accepted and dismissed. Finally, I review instructions for telling the FCC that you object to a particular application.

Investigating LPFM Applications in Chicago

I called Chicago home for five years, so I have a particular interest in seeing real community radio take root there. As the country’s third largest media market the city has a particularly congested dial, making it tough for LPFM. Nevertheless there are 19 applications for 6 frequencies in the city and the close-in suburbs, all requiring a second adjacent waiver in order to be situated near an existing station on the dial. There are 4 frequencies with competing mutually exclusive (MX) applications, and 2 frequencies with singleton applications where there are no competitors.

Amongst those 19 applications are 6 that REC Networks has flagged and filed an informal objection against with the FCC. These applications are all associated with Antonio Cesar Guel, who, according to REC’s filing “is the President/CEO of Hispanic Christian Community Network, Inc. (“HCCN”) and holds a 100% attributable interest in 41 LPTV stations.” In reviewing these applications I found that 5 of the organizations listed were incorporated in Texas–not Illinois–during October of this year. For all of them there was a certificate of formation issued by the Texas Secretary of State attached to their application. Each one was addressed to Guel in Mesquite, Texas.

There are several Chicago non-profit arts organizations that applied for LPFM licenses. The Chicago Independent Radio Project, known as CHIRP, is perhaps the most well-known. CHIRP applied for 107.1 FM, where it faces 3 competing applications, 2 of which are associated with Guel. The station was formed by former employees and volunteers of Loyola University’s WLUW which had been operated as a community station under an agreement with Chicago Public Media. In 2007 the university ended that agreement, bringing management in-house to integrate it with a new College of Communication. Since then CHIRP has been an internet station focusing on local and independent music, with manager Shawn Campbell actively advocating for the passage of the Local Community Radio Act, which made this LPFM application window possible in the first place.

The Public Media Institute, based in the South Side Bridgeport neighborhood, is the 13 year-old umbrella organization behind a variety of arts endeavors, including Lumpen Magazine, Version Arts Festival and the Co-Prosperity Sphere experimental cultural center. According to its educational programming statement, the PMI is “is specifically dedicated to fostering a connection between the oftentimes ‘inaccessible’ arts world and the regional space we are situated in, the Bridgeport neighborhood in Chicago.” The organization applied for 105.5 FM where it faces 2 competing applications, one of which is associated with Guel, who prepared the application but is not listed as an officer or principal of the group applying.

The other 105.5 application was submitted by Roots & Culture which describes itself as "a non-profit 501(c)(3) gallery dedicated to the nurturing of interconnectedness within the contemporary art world, a meeting place for arts communities both local and intersectional.”

Evanston is a diverse close-in suburb just north of Chicago, home to Northwestern University, where the Boocoo Cultural Center, incorporated in 2006, applied for 98.3 FM. Its mission is “to provide a safe and nurturing environment in which individuals can explore and express their creative passions through music, theater, literature, visual arts, video and film, audio and sound production, and movement.” Boocoo’s application competes against 2 from Chicago, one of which is from Chicago Hispanic Community Radio, incorporated this past October in Texas by Guel.

A full listing of Chicago LPFM applications is at the end of this post.

The LPFM Scorecard

Much credit and appreciation must be given to Michi Eyre of REC Networks who has been tirelessly monitoring the FCC database for action on LPFM applications and making sense of that raw data. Thanks to Eyre’s work we know that 1097 applications have been accepted for filing and148 applications have been dismissed out of a total 2,799 applications.

The applications accepted for filing are all singletons, without any competing applications for their frequency. Being accepted doesn’t mean that they’re on the expressway to a construction permit and license. It does mean that the FCC didn’t find any obvious gotchas and is actively reviewing these applications.

The largest proportion of dismissed applications, 55, were rejected for being short-spaced. This means they proposed for frequencies too close to an existing station, without, would would assume, providing the necessary 2nd adjacent waiver justification.

Challenging an LPFM Application

Anyone watching the LPFM process should understand that it is one open to public comment and scrutiny. Anyone may file comments with the FCC regarding in support of or challenging any application. So if you see an application for a group that you think isn’t a legitimate local non-profit, or is otherwise flouting the LPFM rules you may bring this to the Commission’s attention.

Once again, we may thank REC Networks for publishing instructions for submitting these comments electronically. There are two types of comments you can file, an “informal objection” and a “petition to deny.” As the names imply, the petition is the more formal of the two, and the FCC will only accept it once the Commission has formally announced that an application has been officially accepted for filing, which triggers a 30-day comment window. When filing such a petition you are required to submit an affidavit attesting that you know that any material facts in the petition are true.

An informal objection may be submitted any time, and does not require an affidavit. It likely does not carry as much weight with the FCC as a formal petition to deny, but may function to draw staff attention to issues that may be easily verified.

If you have concerns about an application and it is accepted for filing then it’s probably a good idea to file a petition to deny, even if you’ve already submitted an informal objection.

In either case, when submitting an objection to the FCC it’s important to remember that the Commission only cares about facts directly associated with the application’s veracity and compliance with LPFM rules. For instance, the FCC does not care about an applicant’s proposed programming as long as it minimally meets non-commercial standards, and it won’t take into account the fact that you don’t like the kind of programming a group proposes to do. However, the Commission does care if there is evidence demonstrating that the applicant has misrepresented facts, or if there are errors in the engineering data.

LPFM Watch is a weekly feature on Radio Survivor every Thursday.

Chicago LPFM Applicants:

All applicants marked with a + are associated with Antonio Cesar Guel, according to REC Networks.

98.3 FM

107.1 FM

99.1 FM

105.5 FM

97.5 FM

  • M&M Community Development Inc Chicago Branch – Application

107.9 FM

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