List of changes coming to the LPFM service in 2020 and the next filing window.
Here’s a combined list of all of the changes that both have been adopted in MB Docket 19-3 as well as those items expected to be adopted in MB Docket 19-193 as it relates to LPFM. The FCC is expected to vote on the 19-193 technical proposal either at the Open Meeting scheduled on April 23, 2020 likely by teleconference due to the COVID-19 pandemic or sooner (as the Commission did with the March meeting items). Items on MB Docket 19-193 are subject to change between now and that vote. In addition, there will be an opportunity after the Commission adopts MB Docket 19-193 that petitions for reconsideration can be filed.
Certain aspects of the 19-3 proceeding are expected to go into effect on April 12, 2020, two months after publication in the Federal Register. The implementation of portions of 19-3 are still pending the approval of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
While 19-3 also addressed issues with full-service noncommercial educational (NCE) stations, this document will address only the changes that would impact the LPFM service.
Changes that affect existing LPFM stations
Assignments – asset purchase agreements
Consideration (sale price) for assignments are changed from “depreciated fair market value” of tangible goods to “legitimate and prudent expenses of the assignor or transferor”. This means the assignor can ask for the amount they paid for the equipment as well as for any other non-tangible expenses incurred prior to the sale (such as installation costs). They can’t claim operating costs such as rent, salaries, utilities and music licensing. Assignors still can’t make a profit off of a sale. Implementation pending OMB approval.
LPFM stations can own up to 2 FM booster stations. These facilities will be counted towards the station’s limit on FM translators.
Certified LPFM transmitters
FCC upholds policies that LPFM stations must use transmitters that have been type certified and have a FCC ID number. Due to the high amount of inferior imported equipment that is being mass marketed on websites like Amazon.com, REC supports this position. Look for the label!
The expiration date for construction permits (both for new stations and modifications of existing stations) has been extended to 36 months. This policy has been implemented.
Directional antennas will be permitted on LPFM stations regardless of the reason. Directional antennas can be used for second adjacent channel waivers, meeting international agreements or perhaps voluntarily settling mutual interference between stations. Directional antennas can be either “off the shelf” or “composite” (custom design, skewed patterns, etc.). Directional antennas in LPFM will require a proof of performance and statements from an engineer and surveyor that the antenna was properly installed. Pending adoption and codification on 19-193.
Emergency Alert System
LPFM stations in a time share group using a common translator can share a single EAS decoder and will be equally responsible for compliance. Pending adoption and codification on 19-193.
Mexico Strip Zone
Stations within 125 km of Mexico that have been limited to 50 watts ERP can use a directional to radiate more than 50 watts in directions that are not within 125 km of the border. (See the requirements for directional antennas). Pending adoption and codification on 19-193.
Moving Transmitter Locations
LPFM stations can be moved up to 11.2 kilometers as a minor change. Moves longer than 11.2 kilometers can be permitted if the request is accompanied by a contour study showing that the 60 dBu service contour of the current facility and the 60 dBu contour of the proposed facility have some overlap. Pending adoption and codification on 19-193.
While LPFMs filing silent notifications and special temporary authority (STA) applications if they plan on being off the air for more than 10 and 30 days respectively has become a general cultural practice in LPFM, it was never codified in the rules. Pending adoption and codification in 19-193, LPFM stations will be required to file silent notifications and silent STAs like all other broadcast stations.
Third-Adjacent Channel Protections
Minor language change to clarify that the third adjacent interference rule (§73.810) applies to all primary services and previously authorized secondary stations. Pending adoption and codification on 19-193. The FCC admits that they are not aware of any complaints of LPFM third-adjacent channel complaints.
Changes that affect channel availability
Channel 6 protection – reserved band channels (88.1~91.9)
FCC did not change distance separation requirements to TV stations (full-service and low-power) however, the FCC now allows the LPFM station to reach an agreement with the Channel 6 licensee to waive the distance requirement. The Commission will also entertain waiver requests from LPFM stations using the same contour method that translators use to protect Channel 6 (REC can handle this). Pending adoption and codification on 19-193. FCC will address the elimination or reduction of protection requirements at a later time after remaining low power TV stations convert from analog to digital.
Changes that affect the next filing window
Assignments – failing construction
The prohibition on the assignment and transfer of original construction permits will be modified to allow for assignment and transfer of permits after being granted for 18 months. This gives the original applicant an opportunity to build the station and prevent trafficking of construction permits. Consideration on unbuilt permits is still limited to what is legitimate and prudent. No making a profit allowed. Implementation pending OMB approval.
Assignments – holding period
The three-year holding period on assignment of licenses will be eliminated. In its place, will be a 4 year period that would only take effect if points were used to grant the original construction permit (thus resulting in the forced dismissal of other applications during the filing window). Stations in this situation that assign their license in the first 4 years must assign it to an organization that would otherwise qualify with the same number of points as if it was filing for a new station during the window and if tied, must have a local presence date older than the date of the “youngest” organization in the original MX group. Implementation pending OMB approval.
Board member changes during application process
Gradual or sudden board member changes that change more than 50 percent during the period from when the application is filed to the time that it is granted (as long as the mission stays the same and there is no power struggle) will now be permitted. Implementation pending OMB approval.
Pirate radio operators – nunc pro tunc policy
Since the creation of LPFM in 2000, there was a prohibition on those who have been involved in unlicensed broadcasting from being the party of an LPFM station license. The prohibition of involvement in LPFM from those with a “pirate past” was incorporated into the original Radio Broadcast Protection Act of 2000 (RPBA) and the prohibitive language survived in the enactment of the Local Community Radio Act (LCRA).
Under established Commission policy, if an application is dismissed because of a defect, the applicant can file an amended application and request reinstatement nunc pro tunc (like it never happened) unless a specific rule prohibits the ability to fix the error like there is with short-spaced technical proposals on original LPFM applications. [(§73.870(c)]
Effective April 12, 2020 for the next filing window, an application that is dismissed because it was determined that a party to the application had a “pirate past”, the application won’t be able to be reinstated under the nunc pro tunc policy to remove the offending party. The application will be fatal.
FCC Schedule 318 (formerly Form 318) will be updated to include a certification question that site assurance has been obtained and to list the name and phone number of the tower owner or agent. Since this is a form change, it will require OMB approval.
Time Share – advanced agreements
Following the filing window, mutually exclusive (MX) applicants can collaborate and even reach a time share/point aggregation agreement, even before the FCC declares the tentative selectees for the MX group. Implementation pending OMB approval.
Time Share – “do overs”
A process will be put in place in the event that an applicant in the winning time share group is dismissed and there were other tentative selectees that would have been dismissed, the time share agreement will be invalidated a the FCC will open a second 90 period so all remaining tentative selectees (applicants with the same number of points) will have an opportunity to reach a new point aggregation agreement or universal settlement. Implementation pending OMB approval.
Time Share – maximum group size
New time share groups are limited to three applicants. Implementation is pending OMB approval.
Tolling (extending the expiration date on a construction permit)
Certain events under FCC control will receive automatic tolling. These events include: conditions that make operation contingent on the actions of other stations, subject to an administrative or judicial review of the permit grant or applications that are subject to international coordination and were granted prior to full international coordination being received. This will go in effect for the upcoming NCE/LPFM filing windows.
MX/Time Share – “secondary” grants
In a MX group, only the winning applicants in the time share or settlement group would be granted and other applicants would be dismissed, even if they could otherwise be granted. The parties seeking reconsideration cite a case in Hawaii where there were 57 applicants in the MX group and there were many opportunities for secondary grants. Any outcome of this reconsideration would affect both full-service NCE and LPFM.