I. Background (1-4)

  1. In January, we adopted a Report and Order establishing a low power FM radio service.[1]  We authorized this new service to provide opportunities for new voices to be heard, while at the same time preserving the integrity and technical excellence of existing FM radio service and safeguarding its transition to a digital transmission mode. In this Memorandum Opinion and Order on Reconsideration, we dispose of petitions for reconsideration[2] of the Report and Order, make certain changes to our rules, and provide certain clarifications of our rules.[3]
  2. In the Report and Order, the Commission authorized two new classes of FM radio service, known collectively as low power FM (LPFM).  The LP100 class will consist of stations with a maximum power of 100 watts effective radiated power (ERP) at 30 meters antenna height above average terrain (HAAT), providing a signal level equivalent to the FM “protected” service (1 mV/m or 60 dBu) within a radius of approximately 3.5 miles.  After a period of time sufficient to act on LP100 applications that are filed, the Mass Media Bureau will accept applications for LP10 stations.[4]  These stations will have a maximum power of 10 watts ERP at 30 meters HAAT, providing the same signal strength out to approximately 1 or 2 miles from the station’s antenna.  To avoid compromising existing FM radio service, given the new nature of the LPFM service, we imposed separation requirements for LPFM with respect to full power stations operating on co-, 1st - and 2nd - adjacent and intermediate frequency (IF) channels.  Based on our engineers’ technical analysis and careful review of other analyses submitted, we determined that 100-watt LPFM stations operating without 3rd adjacent channel separation requirements will not result in unacceptable new interference to the service of existing FM stations.[5]  We decided, therefore, not to impose 3rd adjacent channel separation requirements because doing so would unnecessarily and substantially restrict the number of LPFM stations that could be authorized, particularly in higher population areas.
  3. We restricted LPFM service to noncommercial operations by noncommercial educational entities and public safety radio services.  With certain narrow exceptions, we decided to restrict ownership to entities that have no attributable interest in any other broadcast station or other media subject to our ownership rules. We severely restricted the number of LPFM stations that a single entity can own and limited ownership to locally-based entities for the first two years.  We determined not to permit the sale of an LPFM station.  To resolve mutually exclusive applications, we decided to use a point system that favors local ownership and locally-originated programming, with time-sharing and successive license terms as tie-breakers.  Finally, we have minimized the regulatory burdens imposed on these stations, consistent with their size and very localized operation.  For example we decided not to impose specific requirements regarding main studio staffing or location, maintenance of public files, and the filing of ownership reports.
  4. In this Memorandum Opinion and Order, we generally affirm the decisions we reached in the Report and Order, although we make some changes and clarify certain aspects of our rules.  As explained below, we reject arguments by petitioners proposing more stringent channel separation requirements, as well as arguments in favor of relaxing those requirements.  We adopt complaint and license modification procedures to ensure that if any unexpected, significant 3rd adjacent channel interference problems are caused by the operation of a particular LPFM station, it can be resolved expeditiously.  We decline to modify the permissible power levels for the service.  We modify the spacing standards adopted in the Report and Order to require that LPFM stations operating on 3rd adjacent channels protect stations operating radio reading services and, pending further study, will not authorize an LPFM station that would not be sufficiently geographically separated from any full-service FM station on a 3rd adjacent channel that operates a radio reading service as of the date of the adoption of this Memorandum Opinion and Order.  We also decline to alter the noncommercial nature of the service.  We affirm our decision to apply our character qualifications policy with respect to former illegal broadcasters.  We increase the flexibility of the ownership rules for certain specific types of applicants: government, transportation and public safety entities, and universities.  We provide clarifications on eligibility issues concerning Indian tribes, student stations, licensees in the Instructional Television Fixed Service (ITFS), and schools with multiple campuses.  We affirm our tie-breaker criteria, with certain clarifications regarding the credit for programming that is locally originated.  Finally, we address a number of questions and suggestions regarding individual elements of our rules.

[1]              Report and Order, MM Docket No. 99-25, 15 FCC Rcd 2205 (2000).

[2]              Hereinafter the Memorandum Opinion and Order.  The list of petitioners is attached at Appendix E.

[3]               Both Amherst Alliance and Don Schellhardt filed Motions for a Decision on their respective reconsideration petitions, urging the Commission to act on their reconsideration petitions before issuing licenses.  We dismiss these motions as moot.  To the extent the motions raise new arguments, we dismiss them as untimely filed Petitions for Reconsideration.

[4]              We are accepting applications for LP100 stations on a geographically staggered basis.  See Appendix C for the filing window schedule. The initial filing window for the first region closed June 8, 2000.  The initial filing window for the fifth, and last, region is expected to be opened in May 2001.

[5]              Report and Order, 15 FCC Rcd at 2206, ¶ 2.