FCC Freezes Translator Apps for 6 Months, Begins Proceeding to Expand & Strengthen LPFM

On Thursday the FCC released a Second Order on Reconsideration and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the low-power FM service, putting forth many important questions for “strengthening” and “expanding” LPFM. Amongst many issues, in this proposed rulemaking the FCC is taking up the nature of the relationship between translator stations and LPFM stations, noting that there are problems, especially since the nationwide translator application window opened up before the LPFM application window in some regions.

Importantly, the FCC has placed a six month freeze on new translator construction permits and licenses:

As an interim measure while we consider these important questions, we direct the Media Bureau to stop granting FM translator new station construction permits for which short-form applications were filed in the 2003 window. This freeze is effective upon the release of this Further Notice and shall remain in effect for six months.

While the FCC does recognize many of Prometheus’ arguments about translators in its notice, the Commission is not acting on their recent petition in enacting this freeze. No direct mention is made of Edgewater / Radio Assist Ministry / World Radio Link, nor Prometheus et al’s charges of improper trafficking in translator stations.

The Second Order on Reconsideration provides some very practical relief to organizations that currently have LPFM construction permits by increasing the distance by which a licensee can easily change its transmitter location, and by allowing an 18 month extention to a construction permit. The latter change will be welcome here at Urbana’s forthcoming LPFM station, since the site of the station is still up in the air pending some possible changes with the home of our IMC (where the station will be housed), and the construction deadline of June is looming.

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking gives the refreshing indication that the FCC was actually paying attention during its recent LPFM day, posing many important questions about the future of LPFM. One such proposal is making LPFM a primary service, which means, amongst many things, that a LPFM station would be protected from interference from other stations, especially translator stations.

There’s a lot of questions to consider, and there are thirty days to send comments to the FCC.

You can read the news release (pdf download) or the full order (pdf download) for yourself. Click MORE to read the main points of the proposed rulemaking.

The Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeks comment on the following issues related to LPFM ownership and application rules:

  • Whether LPFM authorizations should be transferable and, if so, whether transferability should be broadly permitted or limited to special circumstances;
  • Whether to extend from 30 days to 90 days the deadline for submission of a timeshare proposal after a mutually exclusive group of LPFM applicants is announced;
  • Whether to permit renewal of licenses granted under involuntary time-sharing, successive license term procedure;
  • Whether to permanently restrict ownership of LPFM stations to local entities; and
  • Whether to permanently prohibit multiple ownership of LPFM stations.

The Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking also seeks comment on the following issues related to LPFM technical rules:

  • Whether to extend the LPFM construction period from 18 to 36 months;
  • Whether to allow applicants submitting a time-share proposal to relocate the transmitter to a central location, notwithstanding the site relocation limits for minor amendments;