FCC votes to provide new security, new opportunities for low-power FM radio

[via Radio Online]

The FCC adopted a series of ownership, eligibility and technical rules for Low Power FM on Tuesday, and is seeking comment on additional technical matters. In its Second Notice of Proposed Rule-Making, the agency is recommending to Congress that it remove protection for third adjacent channels, a requirement that LPFM stations protect full-power stations.

The Commission says the new rules and policies are designed to "foster and protect LPFM radio service which creates opportunities for new voices on the airwaves."

The actions today included:

* Allows the transfer of LFPM licenses subject to significant limitations.
* Reinstates the Commission's rule that all LPFM authorization holders be local to the community and limits ownership to one station per licensee.
* Clarifies that repetitious, automated programming does not meet the local origination requirement.
* Encourages voluntary time-sharing agreements between applicants.
* Imposes an application cap on 2003 FM translator window filers.
* Limits the responsibility of LPFM stations to resolve interference caused to subsequently authorized full-service stations.
* Establishes a procedural framework for considering short-spacing waivers and a going-forward displacement policy for LPFM stations.

In the Commission's Second Notice of Proposed Rule-Making, it:

* Seeks comment on technical rules that could potentially expand LPFM licensing opportunities.
* Tentatively concludes that full service stations must provide technical and financial assistance to LPFM stations when implementation of a full service station facility proposal would cause interference to an LPFM station.
* Tentatively concludes that the Commission should adopt a contour-based protection methodology to expand LPFM licensing opportunities.
* Intends to address the issues in the FNPRM within 6 months, and that the next filing window for a non-tabled aural licensed service will be for LPFM.
* Recommends to Congress that it remove the requirement that LPFM stations protect full-power stations operating on third adjacent channels.

Commenting on the new rules, Chairman Kevin Martin said, "Low Power FM provides a lower cost opportunity for additional new voices to get into the local radio market. Today's item facilitates LPFM stations' access to limited radio spectrum by significantly reforming our LPFM rules."

He continued, "In order to ensure that the American people have the benefit of a competitive and diverse media marketplace that serves their local communities, we need to create more opportunities for different, new and independent voices to be heard. We need to address the concern that there are too few local outlets available to minorities and new entrants. Our work in this area is important for localism."

In a statement, Commissioner Michael Copps said,"Runaway consolidation since the 1996 Act has left us with homogenized content, national playlists, outsourced news, a dumbed-down civic dialogue, and shameful levels of minority and female ownership. That's why low power radio is such a breath of fresh air. It is a positive response to what ails us. These are truly local stations run by local organizations."

In particular, Copps welcomed the decisions on ownership and eligibility that he says "will ensure that LPFM retains its local character; the initial steps we take to limit the preclusive effect of existing translator applications on LPFM; and the initial steps we take to protect LPFM from full-power station encroachment."

Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein concurred, saying, "There continues to be great public demand for radio spectrum, especially LPFM stations. In spite of initial and considerable skepticism, LPFM stations have proven to be a great success story of communications policy. Creating LPFM is one of the few steps that the Commission has taken in recent history to democratize the public airwaves."

Commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate dissented from the Order's finding of a ten application limit on translators, from the finding regarding second-adjacent channel waivers, and from the portion of this Order that places Low Power FM in what she calls a "superior position to full power." "I find no justification in the record for such a complete shift in well-established policy. Low Power FM licensees provide a great service to their communities, but they accept their license knowing that they are a secondary service, and accept both the risks and rewards that status entails," she added.

Commissioner Robert McDowell also dissented in part on three specific issues involving the adoption of interim processing policies for the second-adjacent channel waivers immediately. "This waiver policy would apply retroactively to LPFM stations that must move to an alternative channel because of a pending full-power station's community of license modification," he said, adding that the FCC should seek public comment before crafting and implementing rules

article originally published at http://news.radio-online.com/cgi-bin/$rol.exe/headline_id=b10420.

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