04-233: REC comments on Broadcast Localism

REC to FCC: Major changes in policy are necessary to promote localism

REC Networks has told the FCC that serious changes need to be made to support local voices have access to the airwaves. REC continues to affirm it's position that because of a serious expansion of full power FM broadcast stations into areas that were otherwise underserved in the past, the FCC needs to seriously consider the status of FM translators including those that do not rebroadcast a local station.

Educational Media Foundation, the operator of two satellite translator networks K-Love and Air1 have encouraged their listeners to fight any attempts to have LPFM displace their translators. Many listeners did comment.

REC assures that based on it's proposals, many of EMF's translators would probably not be impacted if LPFMs were allowed to displace distant translators. This is due to where on the dial the stations are, other stations that may be on the air and the location of EMF's translators in respect to their primary full power stations.

To address the bigger issue, REC is asking for the FCC to consider a nationwide limit on the number of full power non-commercial stations an organization is allowed to own. Both EMF and Tupelo, MS based American Family Association both currently have over 100 full power FM stations. These stations preclude local educational orgnanizations such as local schools and religious organizations from having a full power or low power FM station.

Some of the things we ask for in our filing:

LIMITED PRIMARY STATUS FOR LPFM & CLASS-D STATIONS - Basically what this means that if someone wants to drop in a new allotment or they want to do a metro move (move a station from a rural area closer to a metro area) and there's an overlap of the service contours of the LPFM and full power, the full power will have to find an alternate channel for the LPFM that is "equal or superior" to the channel they operate on right now. If no channels are not available for the LPFM to move to, the LPFM is afforded a "primary-like" status.

ELIMINATE THE "SUB-SECONDARY" STATUS FOR LP-10 - Assure that LP-10 stations can not be displaced by translators and future LP-100 stations. (Under today's rules, a satellator can bump an LP-10).

NEW TRANSLATOR APPLICATION POLICY - also known as "Lessons Learned from the Great Translator Invasion". Proposed policies include requiring that translator applicants can only specify one channel in a given area during a filing window, primary station must be indicated on the short form application (and it must be the correct one), non-commonly owned translators require a written statement from the primary station that it has consent to retransmit and automatically designate for hearing entities that file a large number of applications to check financial qualifications and whether the applicant has written permission from the site owners. Filing windows will be for both LPFM and Translator facilities with LPFM applications getting priority (translator applications will not be allowed to convert their application to "LPFM" after the application list is released.) Ban all "trafficking" of pending applications and construction permits. (We feel that a station should only be sold after it's built and there's actually a facility and not a piece of paper. If the organization can't build, then they should turn in their permit.)

TRANSLATOR OWNERSHIP LIMITS - REC recommends a "point" system. A translator that is not considered "distant" that is owned by the same organization as the primary station counts as 1 point, satellite fed translators in Alaska also count as 1 point, local translators owned by organizations other than the primary station (such as government entities) count as 2 points and "distant" translators that are not in Alaska count as 3 points. REC recommmends a nationwide cap of 60 points. This cap will permit an entity who has a statewide public radio network (such as Minnesota) to be allowed to operate while discouraging EMF, CCTF and other satellcasters. In a different proceeding, we endorsed a nationwide limit of 40 full power NCE-FMs.

ELIMINATE IF REQUIREMENTS - Translators operating less than 100 watts are not required to protect the IF (+/- 10.6 and 10.8 MHz) of other stations. REC is asking that the rule be changed to "100 watts or less" and be expanded to include LPFM stations.

SECOND ADJACENT CHANNEL PROTECTION - Require that translators be required to protect an LPFM's second adjacent channel (right now they don't have to). Whatever digital system we end up with, if it operates in-band, LPFMs will have a digital future.

SPECTRUM PRIORITY FOR LPFM - LPFMs can displace a distant translator if it can make a showing that no other channels are available in displacing the distant translator is the only solution. We also noted that LPFM can have priority over translators of organizations that exceed the translator ownership limits shown above.

OPTIONAL PROHIBITED OVERLAP FOR LPFM - LPFM applicants should be allowed to determine availability by the existing distance spacing tables however they should have the option to use prohibited overlap methodology. This can bring LPFM stations into areas where a full 100 watts would not work. REC's prohibited overlap methodology does take the "buffer zone" into consideration.

CHANNEL 200 (87.9) - Make 87.9 available to LPFMs as a last resort and call on the FCC to negotiate with Mexico and Canada to allow LPFM stations on 87.9 that do not place interference contours over the foreign country.

LOCAL OWNERSHIP REQUIREMENTS - REC is asking that the "10 mile" rule for LPFM be made permenant. Currently, the rule only applies for the first LP-100 and LP-10 windows. Under current rules, national organizations will be able to obtain LPFM stations even if they are not physically in that area.

CHANNEL 6 LPTV PROTECTIONS - Current LPFM rules treat all Channel 6 Low Power TV, Translator and Class-A TV station using full facilities of 3kW at 610m HAAT. Out of over 220 LPTV stations on Channel 6, only 8 stations come anywhere near that limit. REC is suggesting an alternate method that prohibits overlap of the LPFMs interference contour and the LPTV's *actual* Grade B contour. No proposed changes for Full Power TV at this time.

TV AND DTV INTERFERENCE TO CHANNEL 6 - We are asking the Commission to look at the current rules that require not just LPFM but also full power and translators in the reserved band to protect Channel 6 stations. A 1985 decision was based on the consumer electronics industry claiming that televisions from the "early 70's" were still in service. It's time to revisit the rules.

FM TABLE OF ALLOTMENTS - We asked the FCC to serious reconsider how Table of Allotments cases are done. This includes removing policies that encourage moving rural stations to metro areas. In addition, we are asking that Allotment comments be allowed in ECFS, additional rules for out of town filers, filing fees for amendments to the table and a nationwide limit on the number of open allotment cases one can have open at one time.

CHANGES TO "TUCK" - We are asking the FCC make extensive changes to the "Tuck Analysis" that is used to determine if a proposed allotment will serve the community of license or if it's intended to serve an urbanized area. Notibly, we are asking to reword some outdated criteria, expand the Tuck analysis area from the City Grade contour to the Service Contour and instead of considering the primary community in the urbanized area being scruitinized, test the merit of the petion based on all communities within the urbanized area.

CHANNEL 6 FOR FM SOUND BROADCASTING - REC continues to support the reallotment of TV Channel 6 (82-88 MHz) for 30 additional channels of FM sound broadcasting.

LICENSE RENEWALS - The ability to electronically file Petitions to Deny and Informal Objections.

LOW POWER AM - Encourage the FCC to look at the Baumgartener LPAM proposal for a non-commercial service.

NEW FULL POWER CLASS A1 - Probably, our most contraversial proposal. This would be a new "entrepreneural" class of commercial station. Pretty much a rehash of the 1000 watt (at 60m HAAT) service originally proposed by Rodger Skinner. Our A1 would be considered a full power service. New channels would need to be amended to the Table of Allotments. All full-power rules would apply (public file, auctions for commercial stations, etc.). This is a primary status service (but would still protect LPFMs if the FCC accepts Limited Primary Status). For the first 5 years, all new Class A1 drop-in allotments will be areas well distanced from urbanized areas. Full power Class-A stations not meeting a minimum facility of 1kW at 60m can be downgraded to Class A1 unless they show cause why they should not be (this is similar to Class C0 downgrades) however, LPFM applicants can also call for the downgrade of an A to an A1. There's quite a few NCE-FMs that are running with less than A1 facilities.

Reply comments are due by December 1, 2004.