A. Goals (3-6)

  1. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking we adopted on January 28, 1999[1] responded to petitions for rule making and related comments indicating substantial interest in, and public support for, increased citizens' access to the airwaves.[2]  In the year since we issued the Notice, proposing rules authorizing the operation of new low power FM radio stations, we have received comments and letters from thousands of individuals and groups seeking licenses for new radio stations.  Many of these comments, which will be discussed in greater detail below, included comprehensive engineering studies and valuable suggestions for service rules.  These comments -- from churches or other religious organizations,[3] students,[4] labor unions,[5] community organizations and activists,[6] musicians,[7] and other citizens -- reflect a broad interest in service from highly local radio stations strongly grounded in their communities.  In authorizing this new service today, we enhance locally focused community-oriented radio broadcasting.
  2. Our goal in creating a new LPFM service is to create a class of radio stations designed to serve very localized communities or underrepresented groups within communities.  To that end, in the Notice we proposed to establish two classes of low power FM radio service: a 1000-watt primary service and a 100-watt secondary service.  We also sought comment on whether to establish a secondary class of stations operating between one and 10 watts.[8]  Commenters supporting low power radio generally argued for the creation of an LPFM service consisting of 100 or 10 watt stations.  Most commenters did not support the creation of 1000 watt stations, arguing that the local aspect of LPFM service could be diminished by the size of the service area of such stations.[9]  Some commenters opposing the institution of 1000 watt service argued that 1000 watt stations present a greater interference potential than 100 or 10 watt stations.[10]  We also stated in the Notice a hope that the largest of the proposed LPFM stations, at 1000 watts, could serve as a proving ground and an “entry” opportunity for new entrants into the full-power broadcasting industry.  While we continue to view this as a worthwhile goal, we are persuaded by commenters that establishment of a 1000 watt service would not best fulfill our goals at the present time. Our establishment of a low power radio service consisting of two classes operating at maximums of 100 watts and 10 watts will allow licensees to serve their local communities, and will permit a greater number of new stations to be authorized, fostering a diversity of new voices on the airwaves.  
  3. Another goal expressed in the Notice was that any new LPFM service specifically include the voices of community based schools, churches and civic organizations.  In the Notice, we raised the question of whether the LPFM service should include both commercial and noncommercial licensees or whether it should be entirely noncommercial.  We also proposed that any stations of one to 10 watts be exclusively noncommercial, as we did not see commercial potential in stations with such limited service areas.  Many of the commenters supporting LPFM strongly supported the establishment of an entirely noncommercial service.[11]  We tentatively concluded that auctions would be required if mutually exclusive applications for commercial LPFM facilities were filed, but noted that licenses for noncommercial educational or public broadcast stations are specifically exempted from auction by Section 309(j).[12]  Given the overwhelming support for the establishment of a noncommercial service, and the tendency of auctions to skew the allocation of licenses away from noncommercial entities that are more likely to serve underrepresented sections of the community, we conclude that eligibility for LPFM licenses should be limited to noncommercial, educational entities and public safety entities.
  4. Finally, in proposing the creation of a new LPFM service, we made clear that we will not compromise the integrity of the FM spectrum.  We are committed to creating a low power FM radio service only if it does not cause unacceptable interference to existing radio service.  The Notice proposed that current restrictions on 3rd-adjacent channel operations might be eliminated in order to establish an LPFM service and also sought comment as to whether 2nd-adjacent channel separations are necessary.  The modification of our existing rules concerning channel separations has generated extensive comment, as well as extensive engineering studies.[13]  Our Office of Engineering and Technology has conducted its own engineering tests, and has comprehensively reviewed the studies submitted by commenters.  The rules adopted today reflect our well-considered conclusion that the elimination of 3rd-adjacent channel separation requirements for LPFM stations will not cause unacceptable levels of interference to existing radio stations. We recognize that the elimination of restrictions on both the 2nd- and 3rd- adjacent channels would create many more opportunities for community-based LPFM stations, but, given the ambiguity in the record on this issue and our commitment to ensure that the new LPFM service does not unacceptably interfere with existing radio services or impede a digital future for radio broadcasting, we must proceed cautiously.  Accordingly, we will impose 2nd-adjacent channel separation requirements on LPFM stations.

[1]              Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, MM Docket No. 99-25, 14 FCC Rcd 2471 (1999) (Notice).

[2]              Petition of J. Rodger Skinner, RM-9242, Public Notice, Report No. 2254 (February 5, 1998); Petitions of Nickolaus Leggett, Judith Leggett, and Donald Schelhardt, RM-9208, Public Notice, Report No. 2261 (March 10, 1998).

[3]              See generally Comments of Abyssinian Baptist Church; Comments of Crown Heights Jewish Community Council; Comments of the United States Catholic Conference; Comments of Immanuel Presbyterian Church; Comments of the Jewish Community Federation of Cleveland, Ohio; Comments of Association of Islamic Charitable Projects; Comments of Mendan Presbyterian Church; Comments of Calvin Christian Reformed Church; Comments of the United Church of Christ, et al. (UCC, et al.).

[4]              See generally Comments of Justin W. Clifton on behalf of KAMP Student Radio; Comments of University of Arizona; Comments of Adrian Kohn, General Manager, WGTB, Georgetown University; Comments of Brookland High School, Brookland, Arkansas; Comments of El Cerrito High School, El Cerrito, CA.

[5]              See generally Comments of AFL-CIO; Comments of Communications Workers of America.

[6]              See generally Comments of Mount Pleasant Broadcasting Club; Comments of Haitian American Community Broadcasting Federation; Comments of Zeitgeist Community Gallery of Cambridge; Comments of Advocates for a Better Community.

[7]              See generally Comments of Louisiana Music Commission; Comments of Michigan Music is World Class Campaign; Letter from Low Power Radio Coalition by Artists (September 22, 1999); Comments of Jazz Music Radio.

[8]              In the Notice we referred to the one-to-10 watt stations as “microradio” stations; for simplicity, however, throughout this Order we will use the term “LP10” stations.

[9]              See, e.g., Comments of National Lawyers Guild, et al. at Section V; Reply Comments of the United Church of Christ, et al. (UCC, et al.) at 4.In fact, s

[10]             See, e.g., Comments of Walt Disney Company (Disney) at 5.

[11]             See, e.g., Comments of National Lawyers Guild, et al. at Section II; Comments of Prometheus Radio Project at 2.

[12]             47 U.S.C. § 309(j)(2).

[13]             See generally Comments of National Association of Broadcasters (NAB); Reply Comments of UCC, et al.; Comments of the Consumer Electronics Manufacturing Association (CEMA); Comments of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB); Comments of National Public Radio (NPR).