Common myths about LPFM
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One of the things I spoke about at the 2016 LPFM Summit at the National Federation of Community Broadcasters in Denver was about the most common myths and misunderstandings that some have had about LPFM. Many times, these misunderstands come from confusion with the full-power rules or because of how vague the rules and FCC policy has been on these subjects.
MYTH: LPFM stations are required to maintain a public file and make it available for public inspection.
FACT: Section 73.801 of the rules is a great cross reference to what other broadcast rules also apply to LPFM stations. Section 73.3527 deals with the public inspection files for non-commercial broadcast stations. 73.801 does not cross reference 73.3527 as applying to LPFM. This means that LPFM stations are not required to maintain a public inspection file.
In the full-power world, stations are required to keep a public file that is available for inspection by any member of the general public during regular business hours. This file includes the station license, applications, contour maps, ownership reports, political file, EEO file, lists of issues the station has addressed on the air, donor lists, local public notice announcements and the FCC publication, "The Public and Broadcasting".
While LPFM stations do not have a public file requirement, 73.1943 does apply to LPFM stations. This requires LPFM stations to maintain a political file which includes all details about requests for airtime by candidates for public office. The information in this file must be maintained for a minimum of two years.
Radio will soon be switching to online public files. FCC Staff has already advised REC that LPFM stations will not be given access to the online public file system.
If an LPFM station wishes to maintain a public file, it is strictly voluntary.
MYTH: LPFM stations are required to employ a "chief operator"
FACT: Section 73.801 of the rules does not include 73.1870 which addresses chief operators. LPFM stations are not required to have chief operators.
In the full power world, the Chief Operator is responsible for inspection and calibration of the transmission system, required monitors, metering and control systems and necessary repairs. LPFM stations do not have this requirement however it is good practice for the station to have one or more designated persons to assure compliance and make necessary adjustments.
MYTH: If an FM translator moves within 39 kilometers of an LPFM station (co-channel) and now the LPFM is short-spaced under 73.807, the LPFM must move or be forced off the air.
FACT: FM translators use a different method of protection than LPFM stations. Where LPFM uses flat distance separation, FM translators are given the flexibility of using contour overlap. Each broadcast facility has a protected contour which is their primary service area and an interference contour which is an estimate on how far the station could be heard. Interference contours vary in size based on the channel relationship to the protected station. An interference contour in respect to co-channel is much larger than the protection to first adjacent channels.
The interfering contour of an FM translator can not overlap the protected contour of an LPFM station on co-channel or first-adjacent channel. LPFM stations are afforded no protection from FM translators on second or third adjacent channels. Since FM translators can use directional antennas, it is very likely that a translator can come in fairly close to an LPFM station but through the use of directional antennas.
One thing I tell people is "contours can be deceiving". LPFM stations should evaluate any potential FM translator activity. Use sites like fcc.today to keep up to date with filing activity in your area.
MYTH: A full power station recently requested a short move or a class upgrade which now makes us 73.807 short spaced. The full power station can now have me shut down.
FACT: This is not always the case. In some cases, after the full power station is built, the LPFM station may experience real-world interference. As far as "legal interference" goes, section 73.809 of the rules covers what is considered "legal" interference that could result in displacement.
The LPFM station will be considered as causing interference if the interfering contours I spoke about in the previous myth overlap into a station's community of license or into a full power station's city grade contour. The city grade contour is a smaller area inside the protected contour of the full power station. In commercial rules, the community of license must be entirely within the city grade contour of the station.
An LPFM station will be given an opportunity to demonstrate that no actual interference will occur.
If you encounter this type of situation, please contact REC for assistance.
One thing to keep in mind with the last two myths, if another station moves in causing a 73.807 short spacing, you can still move your station on the same channel to any location that is further away from the short spaced station. You can not move in closer to the short spaced station.
MYTH: LPFM stations are required to carry local programming and/or have a staffed main studio.
FACT: Even though LPFM applicants made a pledge to carry local programming and have a staffed main studio in order to obtain points. Those points were only taken into consideration if the applicant was in a situation where they were mutually exclusive (had competing applications) and the points needed to be used in the selection process.
Any LPFM applicant in 2013 that was "singleton" (they did not have any competing applications) are not subject to these pledges and therefore do not have any requirement to carry local programming or staff a main studio 20 hours per week.
Any LPFM that was "MX" in 2013 that was able to move to another channel during or prior to the 90 day remediation window and become singleton are also not subject to the pledges.
If after the 90 day remediation window, there was still an MX situation and there were applicants in your MX group that were dismissed for being non tentative-selectees or in cases where some applicants aggregated points to propose a strong time share group, then the point pledges do apply.
If all members of the MX group reach a universal settlement (and no members with less points were dismissed), then the point pledges do not apply.
Please see the REC Pledge Page at http://recnet.com/pledges to view a list of stations we feel are subject to the pledges.
MYTH: LPFM stations that install HD Radio (digital) can operate commercially on their HD-2 channel.
FACT: In the digitial TV proceeding, the FCC determined that the new sub-channel technology was a broadcast service which can be received by the public and therefore a broadcast service subject to the rules. In the digital radio proceeding, the FCC citied the DTV proceeding's decision on sub-channels and likewise, considered HD2, HD3, etc. sub-channels as broadcast services and therefore subject to all regulations, including Section 399B of the Communications Act which deals with the non-commercial broadcasting.
This myth seems to have started from a published article which suggested that because, under the impression of the author, HD2 channels were considered a "subsiduary" service and therefore can be leased out. The subsiduary services are actually the subcarrier services which are not received by the general public but only by subscribers with radio receivers designed specifically to pick up SCA signals. These signals are used by reading services for the blind, subscription background music services and foreign language broadcasting. Federal statute prohibit the sale of "general coverage" SCA receivers to the general public. LPFM stations are allowed a limited ability to lease their SCA for commercial purposes under some very restrictive rules. Since the services can't be received by the general public, it would not make sense for LPFM stations to do that.
MYTH: The FCC is going to increase LPFM stations to 250 watts by the year 20XX.
FACT: The REC LP-250 proposal, RM-11749 is still pending with the FCC and has not received a rulemaking number. We are not sure if the FCC will issue a notice of pending rulemaking. There is also another LPFM proposal, RM-11753 which proposes LP-250 but does so in a different manner. Our golden opportunity to get LP-250 was not as much ruined by the NAB and full power interests (which the FCC was willing to overlook), but was quashed by fringe interests claiming to represent LPFM but not having an active role with interacting with stations across the six-segments by placing unnecessary restrictions on the siting of LP-250 stations to extreme rural areas. A restriction that the major advocates in LPFM (Prometheus, Common Frequency and REC) does not support.
If you are looking to make a move, finding a situation that may be more friendly if LP-250 ever gets approved will be a more preferential arrangement but just know that any talk of LP-250 right now is pure speculation.
If you have any questions about these myths or any other burning LPFM questions, please check the REC FAQ site http://faq.recnet.net or if you can't find your answer there, please contact REC for assistance.