I. Introduction / II. Background (1-7)

I. Introduction

  1. In January 2000, the Commission adopted rules establishing the low power FM (“LPFM”) service.[1]  We authorized the LPFM service to provide opportunities for new voices to be heard, while at the same time maintaining the integrity of existing FM radio service and preserving its ability to transition to a digital transmission mode.[2]  Since then, the experiences of LPFM applicants, permittees, and licensees have demonstrated that the Commission’s LPFM rules may need some adjustment in order to ensure that we maximize the value of the LPFM service without harming the interests of full-power FM stations or other Commission licensees.  In this Second Order on Reconsideration, we modify our rules governing minor changes and technical minor amendments for LPFM stations.  We also clarify the definition of locally originated programming for purposes of resolving mutually exclusive LPFM applications.  In the Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, we seek comment on a number of technical and ownership issues related to LPFM.  We believe this proceeding will result in an improved LPFM service, while maintaining the integrity of the FM service.

II. Background

  1. In the 2000 Report and Order, the Commission authorized two classes of LPFM service:  The LP100 class, consisting of stations with a maximum power of 100 watts effective radiated power (ERP) at 30 meters antenna height above average terrain (HAAT), providing an FM service radius (1 mV/m or 60 dBu) of approximately 3.5 miles (5.6 kilometers),[3] and the LP10 class, consisting of stations with a maximum power of 10 watts ERP at 30 meters HAAT, providing an FM service radius of approximately one to two miles (1.6 to 3.2 kilometers).[4]  To avoid compromising existing FM radio service, we imposed separation requirements for LPFM with respect to full power stations operating on co-, first- and second-adjacent and intermediate frequency (IF) channels.[5]  We concluded, based on technical analyses, that 100-watt LPFM stations operating without third-adjacent channel separation requirements would not result in unacceptable new interference to existing FM stations.[6]  We decided, therefore, not to impose third-adjacent channel separation requirements because we believed that doing so would unnecessarily and substantially restrict the number of LPFM stations that could be authorized, particularly in higher population areas.[7]
  2. In the Report and Order, we also established ownership and eligibility rules for the LPFM service.  We restricted LPFM service to noncommercial educational (“NCE”) operation by non-profit entities and public safety radio services.[8]  With certain narrow exceptions, we restricted ownership to entities with no attributable interest in any other broadcast station or other media subject to our ownership rules.[9]  We prohibited the sale or transfer of an LPFM station.[10]  For the first two years of the LPFM service, we prohibited multiple ownership of LPFM stations and limited ownership to locally-based entities.[11]  To resolve mutually exclusive applications, we established a point system that favors local ownership and locally-originated programming, with time-sharing and successive license terms as tie-breakers.[12] 
  3. The Report and Order directed the Mass Media Bureau to announce by public notice the opening of a national filing window for LP100 applications.[13]  In March 2000, the Mass Media Bureau announced that it would accept LPFM applications in five separate filing windows, each limited to an application group of ten states and at least one other U.S. jurisdiction, in order to “ensure the expeditious implementation of the LPFM service and to promote the efficient use of Commission resources.”[14]  The Commission conducted a lottery to determine the order of the application groups, and the Mass Media Bureau announced that the first LPFM filing window would open on May 30, 2000.[15]  Subsequent filing windows opened on August 28, 2000, January 16, 2001, and June 11, 2001.  The fourth and fifth LPFM application groups were consolidated into a single window in order to speed the filing process for applicants in these states.[16] 
  4. On reconsideration in September 2000, the Commission issued some revisions and clarifications, but generally affirmed the decisions reached in the Report and Order.[17]  We rejected arguments by petitioners proposing more stringent channel separation requirements, as well as arguments in favor of relaxing the requirements adopted in the Report and Order.[18]  We adopted complaint and license modification procedures to address any unexpected, significant third-adjacent channel interference problems caused by the operation of a particular LPFM station.[19]   We declined to modify the permissible power levels for the service.[20]  We modified the spacing standards adopted in the Report and Order to require that LPFM stations operating on third-adjacent channels protect stations operating radio reading services.[21]  We also declined to alter the NCE nature of the service.[22]  We increased the flexibility of the ownership rules for government, transportation and public safety entities and universities.[23]   We provided clarifications on eligibility issues concerning Indian tribes, student stations, licensees in the Instructional Television Fixed Service (ITFS), and schools with multiple campuses.[24]  We affirmed our tie-breaker criteria, with certain clarifications regarding the credit for programming that is locally originated.[25]  We also addressed a number of additional technical and ownership issues.[26]
  5. The Making Appropriations for the Government of the District of Columbia for FY 2001 Act (“2001 D.C. Appropriations Act”), enacted in December 2000, required the Commission to modify its rules to prescribe LPFM station third-adjacent channel spacing standards and to prohibit any applicant from obtaining an LPFM station license if the applicant previously had engaged in the unlicensed operation of a station.[27]  As a result of rule revisions adopted pursuant to the 2001 D.C. Appropriations Act, facilities proposed in a number of otherwise technically sufficient applications filed in the first two LPFM filing windows became short-spaced to existing full-power FM and/or FM translator stations.[28]  The 2001 D.C. Appropriations Act also instructed the Commission to conduct an experimental program to evaluate whether LPFM stations would interfere with existing FM stations if the LPFM stations were not subject to the additional channel spacing requirements, and to submit a report to Congress, including the Commission’s recommendations to Congress regarding reduction or elimination of the minimum separations for third-adjacent channels.  The Commission selected an independent third party, the Mitre Corporation (“Mitre”), to conduct the field tests.  Mitre submitted a report to the Commission, on which we sought public comment.[29]  On February 19, 2004, the Commission staff submitted the required report to Congress and, based on the Mitre study, recommended that Congress “modify the statute to eliminate the third-adjacent channel distant separation requirements for LPFM stations.”[30] 
  6. On February 8, 2005, the Commission held a forum on LPFM.  The forum was intended to inform the Commission of achievements by LPFM stations and the challenges faced as the service marks its fifth year.[31]  As of the date of release of this Second Order on Reconsideration and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, more than 1,175 LPFM construction permits have been granted.  Of these 1,175 permits, approximately 590 stations are on the air, serving mostly mid-sized and smaller markets.[32]  The actions we take today, based in part on testimony received at the LPFM forum, are designed to increase the number of LPFM stations on the air and strengthen the viability of those stations that are already operating.  

[1] Creation of Low Power Radio Service, 15 FCC Rcd 2205 (2000) (“Report and Order”).

[2] Id. at 2206.

[3] Id. at 2211; 47 C.F.R. § 73.811(a).

[4] Report and Order, 15 FCC Rcd at 2212; 47 C.F.R. § 73.811(b).  LP10 stations are intended to fit in some locations where LP100 stations cannot, due to separation requirements, and to provide groups with the opportunity to operate stations that reach smaller communities or groups with a common interest.  Report and Order, 15 FCC Rcd at 2212.

[5] Id. at 2233-46.

[6] Id. at 2246.

[7] Id.

[8] Id. at 2213. 

[9] Id. at 2217. 

[10] Id.  

[11] Id. at 2219, 2222.  We adopted rules permitting multiple ownership of LPFM stations to be phased in over time.  Id.

[12] Id. at 2260. 

[13] Id. at 2256.

[14] FCC Announces Five-Stage National Filing Window for Low Power FM Broadcast Station Applications, DA 00-621 (MMB rel. Mar. 17, 2000). 

[15] Low Power FM Filing Window, DA 00-914 (MMB rel. Apr. 28, 2000).

[16] Low Power FM Filing Window, DA 01-904 (MMB rel. Apr. 10, 2001).

[17] Creation of a Low Power Radio Service, 15 FCC Rcd 19208 (2000) (“Reconsideration Order”).

[18] Id. at 19215-18.

[19] Id. at 19232.

[20] Id. at 19210.

[21] Id. at 19219.

[22] Id. at 19218-19.

[23] Id. at 19240.

[24] Id. at 19237-40.

[25] Id. at 19246-47.

[26] Appendix B lists the Petitions for Reconsideration or Clarification filed on the Reconsideration Order.

[27] Pub. L. No. 106-553, § 632, 114 Stat. 2762, 2762-A-111 (2000).

[28] See Creation of a Low Power Radio Service, 16 FCC Rcd 8026, 8028 (2001) (“Second Report and Order”).  These applications were subsequently dismissed.

[29] See Comment Sought on the Mitre Corporation’s Technical Report, Experimental Measurements of the Third-Adjacent-Channel Impacts of Low-Power FM Stations, DA 03-2277 (Jul. 11, 2003).

[30] Report to Congress on the Low Power FM Interference Testing Program, Pub. L. No. 10-553 (rel. Feb. 19, 2004).

[31] Forum testimony cited herein is available on video cassette in the Commission’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, Reference Information Center.

[32] As of the date of this Order on Reconsideration and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, there are 343 licensed LPFM stations; the remaining on-air stations have completed construction and filed applications for licenses to cover their construction permits.