FAQ: What requirements do LPFM stations have if forced to shut down as a result of "rolling" blackouts imposed by a local electric utility?

Select FAQ Category:

§73.850(b) of the rules states that LPFM stations are required to operate 36 hours per week, consisting of 5 hours of operation per day on at least 6 days of the week.  Exceptions are made for stations licensed to educational institutions (schools) which does not require them to operate on weekends or on designated school holidays and vacation periods. 

LPFM does not have any specific regulation like full-service stations and FM translator which require a "silent notification" to the FCC in the event the station anticipates not being required to operate per the minimum operating schedules for at least 10 days or the requirement of filing for a special temporary authority if the station anticipates not meeting minimum operating schedules for at least 30 days.  (See §73.850 for a lack of a reporting requirement, see also §73.801 for a lack of reference to §73.1740 or §74.1263).  Regardless of the lack of regulation, LPFM stations are still statutorily obligated under Section 312(g) of the Communications Act that states that any station that fails to broadcast signals for a 12 month period would result in an expriation of the license as a matter of law.  LPFM stations that are silent for more than 30 days are still required to also disclose the silent period on the renewal form.  As of October, 2019, REC has addressed this shortcoming in the Subpart G LPFM rules with FCC Audio Division staff and still recommends that LPFM stations voluntarily report their station silent in a manner similar to the full-service and FM translator rules.

Regardless of that, many of these types of blackouts, such as those in California that are used as a preventitive measure to prevent brush fires caused by power utility facilities will not normally last more than 10 days and even if a requirement was in place for LPFM stations to report after 10 days, notification to the Commission is not required.

§73.877 requires that station logs include a (b) "brief explanation of station outages due to equipment malfunction, servicing or replacement" and (c) "operations not in accordance with the station license.". Station logs should include times (as close as possible) of when LPFM stations were taken off the air by an electric utility and when the station returns to the air.  Logs must be maintained in the station record for at least 2 years from the occurence.  

Note: This is not legal advice but instead is REC's analysis of the FCC Rules and the Communications Act.  Use this information at your own risk.

 

Topics: 
LPFM technical operations
LPFM program content/station operations/noncommercial nature
Answer Date: 
Wednesday, October 9, 2019