G. Service Characteristics
68. Local Programming. We seek comment on whether to impose a minimum local origination requirement on any of the three proposed classes of LPFM service, as proposed by some commenters.87 Listeners benefit from local programming, since it often reflects needs, interests, circumstances, or perspectives that may be unique to that community, and many LPFM supporters would have the Commission's rules actively promote locally-oriented programming by, for instance, limiting the amount of network programming. However, based on our expectation of the nature of the licensees that will populate LPFM, supported by the comments received by those expressing an interest in acquiring their own stations, we expect that a significant amount of programming will be locally produced as a matter of course. Moreover, and importantly, programming does not have to be locally-produced to have interest or value to the listeners in any particular locale. Accordingly, we are inclined to give low power (and microradio) licensees the same discretion as full-power licensees to determine what mix of local and nonlocal programming will best serve the community. However, in order to promote new broadcast voices, we propose that an LPFM station not be permitted to operate as a translator, retransmitting the programming of a full-power station. We seek comment on these positions.
69. Commercial Programming. Commenters disagree as to whether low power radio should be limited to noncommercial operation. We seek comment on this issue. LP1000 stations may need to generate revenue in order to remain operational. Some LP100 stations might sell some form of advertising to subsidize their operation and could possibly provide a useful advertising alternative for certain types of neighborhood businesses that cannot utilize full-power radio stations due to their expense and their broader geographic targeting. Similarly, noncommercial licensees might attempt to seek underwriting funds from neighborhood groups and businesses. Some commenters contend that a noncommercial restriction would increase the amount of "quality" programming available to the public. Others contend that a noncommercial limitation would increase the availability of such stations to educational institutions. We seek comment on whether programming on these stations should be strictly noncommercial and whether our current eligibility rules are appropriate, which permit educational and nonprofit community organizations to become licensees. However, should we not impose such a broad limitation, we note the possibility that part of the FM band will remain reserved for noncommercial LPFM operators, as discussed above at paragraph 0. This would ensure that a significant portion of low power radio facilities would be noncommercial in nature.
70. Public Interest Programming Requirements. Because they would be primary stations with potentially substantial coverage areas, we propose to require LP1000 licensees to adhere to the same Part 73 requirements regarding public interest broadcasting as apply to full power FM licensees. Most importantly, this means that each LP1000 licensee would be required to air programming serving the needs and interests of its community (as community is defined in paragraph 0, below), using its discretion as to how to meet that obligation. As more specific examples, LP1000 station operators would be required to comply with programming-related rules regarding the broadcasting of: (1) taped, filmed, or recorded material; 88 (2) lottery information; 89 (3) sponsorship identification; 90 (4) personal attacks; 91 and (5) periodic call sign announcements.92
71. We seek comment on this proposal. In this regard, we also note that we have not proposed to allocate low power services to specific communities in the way that full power radio stations are, and signal coverage limitations would make such designations problematic. We propose that an LP1000 licensee's service obligations pertain to those listeners within its predicted 1 mV/m signal contour in the same way that full power radio station must serve the listeners in its community of license.
72. We expect the very nature of LP100 and microradio stations will ensure that they serve the public. Therefore, we are disinclined to put the burdens of complying with specific programming requirements on these licensees, particularly given the size of the operations we envision and the simplicity we are striving for in this service. We note that commenters that have addressed this issue in response to the Leggett and Skinner petitions generally do not believe that the Commission should impose and try to monitor specific public interest programming requirements for low power radio broadcasters, with the exception of licensees that would provide a service equivalent to the LP1000 service that we have proposed. We seek comment on this issue as it applies to each level of low power or microradio service we might adopt.
73. Other Service Rules. We also request comment on whether LPFM stations of each class should be subject to the variety of other rules in Part 73 with which full power stations must comply, including, for example, the main studio rule (47 C.F.R. ' 73.1125(a)), public file rule (47 C.F.R. '' 73.3526, 73.3527), and the periodic ownership reporting requirements (47 C.F.R. ' 73.3615). Given the purposes and power levels of LP1000 stations, we tentatively conclude that LP1000 licensees should generally meet the Part 73 rules applicable to full power FM stations. However, we seek comment on whether sufficient useful purpose would be served in applying each rule to these licensees. We would be disinclined to apply these service rules to microradio stations, and we particularly seek comment with regard to the rules appropriate for LP100 stations. Commenters are invited to discuss which existing rules should apply or what new or modified rules would be more appropriate. Where a rule should not apply to a particular class of service, commenters should analyze the characteristics of that service that warrant disparate treatment for the purposes of that rule.
74. We also propose to treat low power radio stations like full power stations for the purposes of our environmental rules and responsibilities under the National Environmental Protection Act. 93 With respect to protection against exposure to radiofrequency radiation, we note that LP1000 and LP100 stations would operate at the power levels of some Class A FM stations, and thus the same safety and environmental concerns would seem to apply. We therefore propose to apply to these stations the maximum permissible exposure limits and related regulatory provisions that apply to FM radio stations. We invite comment on this matter, and specifically on whether and how we should treat LP100 stations differently from LP1000 stations and, if so, why. We also seek comment on how our environmental rules should apply to microradio stations, if this low power radio class is adopted.
75. We also seek comment on the applicability of the various political programming rules to each class of low power service we might adopt. There are two statutory provisions explicitly underlying some of these rules, and each is explicitly applicable to "broadcasting stations."94 Thus, we lack the discretion not to apply these provisions to any class of LPFM station, regardless of its size. We seek comment on how each of these political broadcasting rules should be applied to low power stations, taking into consideration our statutory mandate.
76. Operating Hours. We are sympathetic with the position of some commenters that the market, not the Commission, should determine the hours a station operates. However, the Commission has determined that a minimum operating hours requirement for full power FM stations serves the public interest, and the LP1000 class is intended to be similar to full power FM in many respects. Because we intend LP1000 stations to help new entrants eventually participate in the full power radio industry, and because these stations may be able to compete with full power stations, we propose to require them to maintain the same minimum hours of operation as are required of the lowest class of full-power stations: generally two thirds of their authorized hours between 6 a.m. and midnight.95
77. With respect to LP100 and microradio stations, however, a combination of their lesser spectrum utilization, the nature of the anticipated licensees and their services, and practical enforcement concerns suggests at this time that a minimum operating schedule should not be established unless and until it is shown to be necessary. Such a determination could also be affected by whether we designate these as secondary services. Should we determine after an initial period of operation that spectrum is being inappropriately underutilized by LP100 or microradio stations and that spectrum is being wasted (i.e., that LPFM stations are not actually broadcasting very often yet are preventing others from utilizing their frequencies), we could then revisit the issue. Commenters are urged to address the efficacy of our proposals and their practicality for both licensees and the Commission's licensing and enforcement functions.
78. Construction, License Terms, Sales, and Renewals. We wish to provide ample time for construction, while providing for prompt introduction of service and discouraging speculative or insufficiently thought out applications. We wish to adopt limits that will obviate any need or justification to consider extensions of the construction permits we expect to issue.
79. Supporters of low power radio who discuss these issues suggest several different rules regarding construction periods, license terms, and renewals, ranging from relatively short license terms (such as four years) with provisions for renewal, to long terms (such as 14 years) with no renewal. One broadcaster suggests that construction permits be limited to 12 months, without possibility of extensions or transfer to another party. The Community Radio Coalition also contends that low power (or microradio) construction permits should not be transferable, in order to discourage trafficking in construction permits and speculative applications.96
80. We propose construction periods that vary with the class of service and complexity of facilities. We initially believe that LP1000 stations should have the same construction period, and restriction on extensions, as full-power radio stations.97 While most of these stations should be easier to build than most full power stations, we expect that most LP1000 applicants may be relatively inexperienced in building broadcast facilities. We believe that LP100 and microradio stations should be able to be constructed in much less time and propose an eighteen-month construction limit for LP100 stations and a twelve-month limit for microradio stations. Both of these latter proposals assume a minimum of zoning or building permit delays. We question whether the proposed short construction period for LP100 and microradio applicants would encourage them to construct relatively simple broadcasting apparatus that would not entail significant zoning and building considerations. Given the simplicity of the application process we hope to adopt for these services, such a process should not be burdensome on the applicants or the Commission and should help to ensure the prompt initiation of new service. Also, we seek comment on the Community Radio Coalition's proposal to prohibit the transfer of low power radio construction permits in light of the ownership and construction terms proposed.
81. With regard to any construction period adopted for each service, we envision a strict enforcement of the deadline, as with other radio services. 98 We seek comment on the sufficiency of the construction periods proposed here to accomplish these goals. Commenters are also invited to address how Section 319(b) of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, affects the rules that we will adopt for low power radio service. Pursuant to this statutory provision, a construction permit "will be automatically forfeited if the station is not ready for operation within the time specified or within such further time as the Commission may allow, unless prevented by causes not under the control of the grantee." 47 U.S.C. ' 319(b).
82. We propose that LP1000 stations follow the Part 73 rules applicable to full-power radio stations with regard to the length of their license terms and renewal procedures. However, we ask if there is some regard in which their renewal process could be further simplified appropriate to their status and the nature of their service, consistent with statutory requirements. If there is little specific regulation for LP100 and microradio stations, we query how often and how closely we should actively monitor their performance, within the parameters of our statutory responsibility.99 Would a pro forma process satisfy any statutory requirement, in the absence of specific public complaint, for the new classes of stations contemplated here?
83. While one goal of LP1000 stations could be to provide an entry opportunity, and thus the prospect of periodic renewal may be appropriate to encourage the investment of time, money, and effort to build a successful enterprise, we are open to comment on whether stations in other classes should be authorized for finite non-renewable periods, such as five or eight years, so that others may eventually take their turns at the microphone. (An existing operator could, of course, reapply for a station where there is not another (new) applicant.) Making broadcast outlets available to more speakers is a fundamental premise of this rule making effort, and we do not expect that such a limitation would discourage the very modest investment required to build such a station, particularly if the assets would be readily transferable. We seek comment on whether the disruption of service to the public outweighs the potential benefits of making this service available to more speakers on a consecutive basis. Our decision may be influenced by the number of low power stations we expect to be able to authorize under the rules we ultimately adopt. We seek comment on these proposals and on their underlying premises.
84. We also seek comment on whether a finite, nonrenewable license period for LP100 or microradio stations would contravene Congress' intention in adopting statutory provisions that provide for a "renewal expectancy" for broadcast stations. Section 309(k)(1) of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, states that "[i]f the licensee of a broadcast station submits an application to the Commission for renewal of such license, the Commission shall grant the application" unless the station has not served the public interest, the licensee has committed serious violations of the Communications Act or Commission regulations, or the licensee has violated the Act or the Commission's rules in such a manner as to constitute a pattern of abuse. 47 U.S.C. ' 309(k)(1). We tentatively believe that this provision does not direct the Commission to accept renewal applications for all broadcast services, but instead sets the standards for the Commission to follow when it chooses to accept renewal applications for a service. However, we recognize that this interpretation might not be consistent with Congress's intent to give broadcasters greater assurance that their licenses would be renewed. Therefore, we ask commenters to address our interpretation.
85. A similar issue is raised with Section 307(c) of the Act, which states that each broadcast license shall be granted "for a term not to exceed 8 years. Upon application therefor, a renewal of such license may be granted . . . if the Commission finds that the public interest, convenience, and necessity would be served thereby." 47 U.S.C. ' 307(c). We ask commenters to address whether non-renewable licenses would be inconsistent with this statutory provision.
86. Given the ownership restrictions proposed here, we do not believe it is necessary or appropriate to restrict the sale of any class of microradio station, as urged by some commenters.100 These parties are concerned that service will be delayed by speculative applications and trafficking in construction permits. A significant market for trafficked construction permits might develop if there were numerous parties waiting to purchase large numbers of LPFM construction permits soon after their issuance to the initial permittees. This ready market might encourage the filing of speculative applications. However, we expect that the strict ownership rules we have proposed would not allow such a market to develop, because of the limits on LPFM stations that a party could own. Commenters are invited to address this issue, including whether restrictions on sales would be advisable if the Commission adopts ownership rules other than as proposed above.
87. Emergency Alert System. Since we expect LP1000 facilities to reach a significant number of people, we propose to treat them like full power FM stations for the purposes of the Emergency Alert System (EAS).101 In this way, we would expect to avoid having significant numbers of people deprived of this critical information resource. By contrast, due to their extremely small coverage areas and probably very small audiences, as well as their limited resources, we propose that microradio stations, if adopted, not be required to participate in the EAS. We request comment on these proposals. We also request commenters to address how LP100 stations, with their intermediate size and audience reach, should fit into the EAS structure.
88. Station Identification. We ask commenters whether we should adopt a call sign system that would identify a low power radio station as such. This was our policy for low power television ("LPTV") stations for many years. As a result, LPTV stations did not use the four-letter call sign identification system used by full power stations. However, we note that the Commission eventually determined that the public interest would be served by allowing LPTV stations to use call signs that were like those of full power stations; the call sign itself need not identify a station as a low power facility.102 Commenters should explain whether the local population benefits by having an LPFM station's status identified through its call sign.
89. Inspection by the Commission and Compliance with Its Rules. The Commission has a strong interest in ensuring that all licensed facilities operate safely and in compliance with the Commission's rules. Therefore, we propose to apply Section 73.1225 of our rules, regarding stations inspections, to all classes of LPFM stations: As with full power broadcast stations, all LPFM stations would be made available for inspection by Commission representatives at any time during their business hours or at any time they are in operation. We stress that, as with all broadcast services, the licensee is the party that is responsible for operation of the station and for its full compliance with all Commission rules.
90. Section 74.1203, 47 C.F.R. ' 74.1203, provides for the Commission to immediately shut down FM translator and booster stations, which are secondary, if they cause any actual impermissible interference. We seek comment on whether similar provisions should apply to LP100 and microradio stations if authorized as secondary services.
87 E.g., CRC Petition for Rule Making at 8.
88 47 C.F.R. ' 73.1208.
89 47 C.F.R. ' 73.1211.
90 47 C.F.R. ' 73.1212.
91 47 C.F.R. ' 73.1920.
92 47 C.F.R. ' 73.1201.
93 47 C.F.R. '' 1.1301-1.1319.
94 47 U.S.C ' 312(a)(7) requires broadcast licensees to permit purchase of reasonable amounts of air time by a legally qualified candidate for Federal elective office. 47 U.S.C. ' 315 requires that a broadcast station that permits any legally qualified candidate for (any) public office to use the station (with the exception of specified news coverage), must then afford equal opportunities to all other such candidates for that office.
95 See 47 C.F.R. ' 73.1740; see also, 47 C.F.R. ' 73.561.
96 CRC Petition for Rule Making at 5.
97 See Report and Order in MM Dockets Nos. 98-43 and 94-149, FCC 98-281 (released November 25, 1998) ("Non-Technical Broadcasting Streamlining R&O"), providing a three year construction period for new radio stations.
99 Section 307(a) of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, 47 U.S.C. ' 307(a), provides for the grant of any application, including a renewal application, if the public convenience, interest, or necessity will be served, and Section 307(c)(1) provides for maximum license terms of eight years.
100 See, e.g., CRC Petition for Rule Making at 5.
101 We would amend Section 11.11(a) of our rules, 47 C.F.R. ' 11.11(a), to add LPFM operators to the category of licensees subject to the EAS rules.
102 See First Report and Order in MM Docket No. 93-114, 9 FCC Rcd 2555 (1994).