REC Advisory Letter #10: First advisory of future LPFM filing window, major change opportunity and filing freeze.

In this Advisory Letter, we provide notice that the Federal Communications Commission is definitely planning to schedule a filing window for new LPFM construction permits and major changes to current facilities.  This comes as a result of statements made in an Order on Reconsideration, which as of May 27, 2021 was on a circulation draft and therefore will be voted on by the full Commission on or just before their next scheduled open meeting on June 17, 2021.  We note that this document deals with two reconsideration petitions filed in MB Docket 19-193, but as the Commission had noted in the document and Acting Chairperson Janet Rosenworcel had mentioned elsewhere, the resolution of these two Petitions for Reconsideration will pave the way to the next LPFM window.

The next LPFM window will take place sometime after the FCC holds the full-service noncommercial educational FM filing window, scheduled for November, 2021.  More information about that window can be found in REC Advisory Letter #2.  We currently do not have a date for that filing window.  We will announce that in a subsequent Advisory Letter.

Upcoming filing freeze affecting secondary facilities

Prior to the opening of the LPFM filing window, the FCC may declare a spectrum freeze to assure that the spectrum remains static so new and major modified stations could be planned.  Normally, this will mean that during the freeze that no applications to modify existing LPFM stations nor FM translators will be accepted.  Applications such as license to cover a previously granted construction permit as well as administrative applications involving no modification of the physical facility will also be accepted.  Existing LPFM stations should plan their modifications prior to this freeze (which is normally 30 or more days prior to the open of the window).  The freeze will be lifted the day after the filing window closes.  Primary (full-power) FM stations would not normally be subject to a freeze for LPFM activity and will be allowed to file during the freeze and the window, however, stations that do so will not be protected from LPFM applications filed during the window.

What can be filed prior to and during a filing freeze and during the window

FCC rules currently define a minor change as a move that is less than 11.2 kilometers or upon a contour study a move beyond 11.2 km when a contour study shows that the 60 dBu service contour of the current LPFM facility overlaps the 60 dBu contour of the proposed facility.  A minor change is also defined as a change in channel where the proposed channel is 1, 2, 3, 53 or 54 channels separated (+/- 0.2, 0.4, 0.6, 10.6 or 10.8 MHz). A minor change can be done to any channel if a contour study can demonstrate that the arriving interfering contours on the proposed channel are weaker than those on the current channel (thus a reduction in interference).  Any modified facility must continue to meet the distance separation requirements outlined in §73.807 of the rules and any station proposed for 88.1~91.9 must also meet §73.825 requirements to Channel 6 low power and full power TV stations.

During the filing window, an LPFM station may file for a move of over 11.2 km (where there is no overlap), even if that move is hundreds of miles away.  During the filing window, an LPFM station may request a “non-adjacent” (not 1, 2, 3, 53 or 54) channel without the need for a technical showing of reduced interference.  Again, all §73.807 and §73.825 distance separation requirements must be met.  No minor changes may be filed however license applications to cover granted construction permits and administrative applications not involving the modification of the physical facility may be filed.

Major change applications are subject to competing applications and the point system.

If an LPFM station is modified as a major change during the filing window and there are conflicting applications (such as new construction permits) filed where the multiple applications can’t be simultaneously granted, the facility (either a major change to an existing LPFM or an original construction permit application by a new applicant) will be considered mutually exclusive and will follow the FCC’s selection process outlined in §73.872 of the rules which includes the use of the point system.  If a major change application ends up not being the tentative selectee, then the existing LPFM license will remain in force. If granted, the existing LPFM station will remain authorized to broadcast until program testing begins on the new station.  LPFM stations are unable to simultaneously both the current station and the recently authorized changed facility.

Existing LPFM stations making major moves in the LPFM filing window must continue to meet the localism requirements, which for educational LPFMs would be either the headquarters or a campus within 20 miles of the transmitting antenna (10 miles in markets 1~50 or at least 75% of the organization’s board members reside within 20 miles of the transmitting antenna (10 miles in markets 1~50).

The LPFM point system

LPFM applications, including major change applications filed during the filing window will be subject to the Commission's point system for mutually exclusive applications.  Points are given based on the following:

  • Local presence (1 point) – applicant has been established for at least two years prior to filing and either the organization or 75% of the board members are located within 20 miles of the proposed antenna site (10 miles for major media markets 1 through 50).
  • Main studio pledge (1 point) – applicant pledges that if the permit is won on points, they will maintain a publicly accessible main studio that is open at least 20 hours per week.
  • Local programming pledge (1 point) – applicant pledges that if the permit is won on points, they will carry at least 8 hours per day of programming that originated from within 20 miles of the transmitting antenna (10 miles for major media markets 1 through 50).
  • Bonus point (1 point) – A bonus point is given for applicants who can make both the main studio and local programming pledges.
  • Diversity in ownership (1 point) – a point can be claimed if the LPFM station is the applicant’s only media holding.  A major change LPFM applicant will be able to claim this point because even though the applicant already has a media holding already (the LPFM station), that station will be moved and they will not be able to operate both facilities simultaneously.
  • Tribal priority (1 point) – a point can be claimed if the applicant is a tribal enterprise and that the proposed station is located on tribal land.

Major change applicants will be permitted to aggregate points with new entrant applicants to allow for voluntary time sharing and if a major change applicant prevails in a FCC review of the points (such as when no agreement can be made), the LPFM would be subject to the main studio and local programming pledges (if they claimed those points) and may be prohibited from assigning their license to another organization for a period of 4 years following the grant of the license covering the construction permit.  Major change applicants may be subject to involuntary time sharing, where if a voluntary agreement is not reached in the future, could result in a non-renewable license.

REC's services, system support and handling of the LPFM filing window

In June, 2021, REC will start our system changes to support the LPFM window.  For now, prospective new applicants can use REC’s PREMIS system in order to check basic LPFM availability information at their proposed station location.  Channel numbers will not be provided. 

This summer, REC will announce our service offering to support major changes and original construction permits including the publication of a transparent rate table.

REC currently has no dates or even any estimate from FCC staff regarding the timing of this window, but we do not feel this window will take place until at least mid-2022.

Any announcements regarding this window will be first posted on the REC Networks Facebook page.  Please make sure to like that page in order to receive up to the minute updates before they are posted on the website.

As of May 29, 2021, REC is not ready to accept shows of interest either from existing LPFM stations seeking a major change nor from prospective new entrants.  We will continue to post information, update our frequently asked questions list and service information as well as develop systems to support the window.

Additional information for new entrants

REC reminds new entrants who wish to file in the LPFM filing window, that prior to filing, their organization must be registered with a state Corporation Commission or similar government entity as a non-profit corporation.  The FCC will not license LPFM stations to individuals, partnerships, for-profit private corporations, for-profit stock corporations, LLCs or any other for-profit entity type.  The organization must be an existing educational organization with an educational purpose and construction permits will only be granted to organizations that can make a satisfactory showing that the proposed radio station will advance the organization’s educational program.  The organization is not required to be a §501(c) non-profit charity. 

For new entrants, please note that this REC Advisory Letter series mainly addresses updated information of interest to existing LPFM stations and does not normally address issues directly affecting new entrant applicants.  Information for new LPFM applicants can be found on the REC website at this URL:
https://recnet.com/lpfm