C. Classes of Service (69-71)

  1. The Report and Order established two classes of LPFM stations.  LP100 stations will be authorized to operate with maximum facilities of 100 watts effective radiated power (ERP) at 30 meters (100 feet) antenna height above average terrain (HAAT).  LP10 stations will be licensed with the equivalent of 10 watts ERP at 30 meters HAAT.  The Commission declined to create a 1000 watt class of low power stations because of potential interference concerns, and because it determined that LP100 and LP10 stations would create more opportunities for community-oriented service.[1]
  2. Skinner urges us to reconsider our decision not to authorize 1000 watt stations, because he believes that restricting LPFM stations to lower power operation will adversely affect their economic viability.  He argues that 1000 watt stations should be allowed in areas where it could be shown that operation would be possible without the creation of prohibited contour overlap.[2]  We continue to believe for the reasons stated in the Report and Order that the combination of LP100 and LP10 stations will best promote the goals of a community-based radio service.[3]  Moreover, we believe that our reasons for rejecting a contour protection methodology for protecting stations from interference [4] is even more compelling with regard to higher power LPFM stations.  Skinner has not provided any additional information that would lead us to reconsider these conclusions.
  3. Our conclusion that licensing these two classes of service at this time would serve the public interest is warranted by changes in the radio industry.  In the past we have struck the balance in favor of licensing higher powered stations to ensure that large audiences were served.[5]  Now, when radio service is widely available throughout the country and very little spectrum remains available for new full‑powered stations, we conclude that licensing very low powered stations will fill in the gaps in the spectrum that would otherwise go unused. This will maximize the use of the available spectrum, rather than create the inefficiencies we sought to avoid in the past.[6]   Consistent with this approach, we are licensing LP100 stations before LP10 stations.  As we stated in the Report and Order, [w]e adopt this sequential process in order to provide the larger (100 watt) stations with their greater service areas the first opportunity to become established.  Given that some LP10 stations can be sited where LP100 stations cannot, we expect that opportunities will remain for LP10 stations after the initial demand for LP100 stations has been accommodated.  Additionally, our own resources will be better spent first advancing services to relatively greater areas."[7]  Our decision to begin licensing low power FM radio stations at this time is also in response to the dramatic changes in the radio industry during the last four years since our radio multiple ownership limits were relaxed pursuant to the 1996 Act.[8]  Given the substantial consolidation of radio station ownership in recent years, the need for adding diverse voices to the airwaves has grown.  Because we have concluded that taking this step will not undermine our spectrum efficiency goals, we affirm our decision to create these two new classes of FM radio service.

[1]              Report and Order, 15 FCC Rcd at 2211, ¶ 11.

[2]              Skinner Petition at 7.

[3]              Report and Order, 15 FCC Rcd at 2211,  ¶ 12.

[4]              Id. at 2233, ¶ 70.

[5]              In re Revision of FM Broadcast Rules, 21 RR 1655 ¶ 7 (1961); In re Revision of FM Broadcast Rules, 23 RR 1859, ¶ 19-20 (1963); In re Changes in the Rules Relating to Noncommercial Educational FM Broadcast Stations, 69 FCC 2d 240, ¶ 23-24 (1978).

[6]              In the past, we have declined to authorize low power FM radio broadcast stations because of our concern that they would "preclude the establishment of more efficient, stable, full powered stations."  Dunifer, 11 FCC Rcd 718, ¶ 15 (1995).  At this time, however, we are creating an LPFM service that is designed to allow small stations to operate where full powered stations cannot.  Moreover, we have adopted rules to ensure that the operation of LPFM stations does not undermine the technical integrity of the existing FM radio service.

[7]              Report and Order, 15 FCC Rcd at 2211, ¶ 11 (emphasis added).

[8]              The 1996 Act eliminated the Commission’s national ownership limits and relaxed the local radio ownership limits. In response, the radio industry has consolidated ownership during the past four years, with the number of radio owners declining by approximately 1000.  In 1996, the largest radio  group owner had fewer than 40 radio stations nationwide.  In March 2000, the two largest radio group owners each have over 440 radio stations, and there are several radio owners with more than 100 radio stations.  Approximately two-thirds of all commercial radio stations are owned as a part of radio groups.  FCC Staff Analysis of BIA Master Access, BIA research, Inc., March 2000.