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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Low power FM advocates push solutions for spectrum availability and encroachment for local community radio

From Pete TriDish at Prometheus Radio Project:

Prometheus Radio Project, working closely with Media Access Project, Common Frequency and students from Penn State, University of Colorado, University of Pennsylvania, and Temple, have released a set of comments and report designed to move the debate forward on the future of LPFM.

In these comments, Low Power advocates praised the Commission for actions that they took last fall to protect low power stations from encroachment, and recommended several measures that would further protect stations. These measures included requiring that if a low power station was displaced by a full power station, that the full power licensee pay full reasonable costs incurred by the LPFM. We also recommended that displacements not be allowed to occur unless a channel was found of equal coverage and quality for the LPFM station. Full power licensees had put in several petitions against the FCC's new policies on encroachment, and much of the comment was devoted to disproving their arguments.

On spectrum availability, low power advocates did extensive study of the current state of the FM band. We found evidence that while the FCC's measures from last fall were very helpful, they did not do enough to open up spectrum for Low Power radio stations. The FCC has limited pending translator applications to 10 per applicant, and tentatively concluded that they would allow Low Power FMs to use the contour overlap method for allocating low power stations. However, the FCC did not make a decision on priority between LPFMs and translators, and invited more comment. An extensive, painstaking study was conducted of translators on the FM band, and their preclusive impact upon potential low power channel availability.

Our studies found that unless there was a significant change in priority between LPFMs and translators, many translator owners would continue to have hundreds of repetitions of their signals while the FCC tells LPFMs that there are no channels available.

Earlier proposals from LPFM advocates have focused on limits to the number of translators that any entity can own, or physical distance from the translator to its originating station. Translator owners continue to insist that they are entitled to as many translators as they feel like having, and have fired off a mountain of legal action and lawsuits at the Commission to prevent the FCC from taking any actions, however small, to promote localism through licensing of LPFM stations.

Low Power advocates advanced a plan which proposed an innovative, dramatic compromise. Building on an idea from the always insightful communications attorney Michael Couzens, we have developed a concept that should accommodate all reasonable use of translators while capping some of the abuses prevalent in repeater licensing today. Translator owners could have up to 10 translators with coverage inside the top 303 urban markets as described by Arbitron. Radio stations could have up to 10 repetitions of their originating signal inside the top 303 markets. These first ten would be primary to new low power signals. Any additional translators would be subject to displacement by a low power applicant who pledged to meet a locally produced programming requirement. Appropriate limitations would be placed on buying and selling of translators and other speculative behavior. Separately, the idea was also brought up that translator owners, under certain circumstances, might be enabled to sell translators to groups that could not find another channel.

Prometheus hopes that legitimate users of translators will join us in these ideas for reasonable "rules of the road" for translators and reject the speculators and empire builders in their midst, who have succeeded in gumming up the legitimate licensing system for everyone seeking licenses from the FCC.

Comments also supported the Creation of LCFM, or Local Community FM, a new class of licensing identical to LPFM but using the more technically flexible "contour overlap " method, which would allow LPFMs to do technical studies (similar to the ones currently used by translators). to find viable channels currently not available under the current LPFM licensing system. Stations would have to pay for an engineer to conduct a channel search, and these stations would have to protect existing stations from any interference complaints. The prospect of finding available channels even in some of the densest urban areas would be an exciting step forward for community radio, though our studies have found that availability will be low for LCFM unless there is a re-ordering of priorities between translator applicants and LPFM.

Technical Research by Rachel Healy, Patricia McCarthy, Jan Schieffer, Sakura Saunders, Pete Tridish, Todd Urick, and John Wenz. Legal research by Andrew Christopher, Daniel Goshorn, Michael Hartman, David Wilson and comments were authored by Parul Desai. Outreach for comments was done by Kate Blofson, Muna Hijazi, Megan Sheehan, Hannah Sassaman and Steven Bluhm.

Comments were endorsed by:
PROMETHEUS RADIO PROJECT
NATIONAL HISPANIC MEDIA COALITION
RECLAIM THE MEDIA
COMMON CAUSE
UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST, OFFICE OF COMMUNICATION, INC.
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF COMMUNITY BROADCASTERS
FREE PRESS
BENTON FOUNDATION
NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION
NATIVE PUBLIC MEDIA
CONSUMERS UNION
FUTURE OF MUSIC COALITION
CCTV CENTER FOR MEDIA & DEMOCRACY
CENTER FOR DIGITAL DEMOCRACY
MEDIA ALLIANCE
COMMON FREQUENCY
MEDIA MOBILIZING PROJECT
KFOK-LP, KFOK COMMUNITY RADIO, GEORGETOWN, CA
KOWS-LP AND THE OCCIDENTAL ARTS AND ECOLOGY CENTER,
OCCIDENTAL, CA
KPYT-LP, PASQUA-YAQUI INDIAN TRIBE, TUSCON, AZ
KYRS-LP, THIN AIR COMMUNITY RADIO, SPOKANE, WA
MEDIA BRIDGES, CINCINNATI, OH
MONTAGUE COMMUNITY TV, MONTAGUE, MA
WCNH-LP, HIGHLANDS COMMUNITY BROADCASTING, CONCORD, NH
WCOM-LP, COMMUNITY RADIO OF CARRBORO, CARRBORO, NC
WEZU-LP, ROANOKE RAPIDS, NC
WCRX-LP, BEXLEY PUBLIC RADIO FOUNDATION, BEXLEY, OH
WPVM-LP, MOUNTAIN AREA INFORMATION NETWORK, ASHEVILLE, NC
WRFN-LP, RADIO FREE NASHVILLE, PASQUO, TN
WSCA-LP, PORTSMOUTH COMMUNITY RADIO, PORTSMOUTH, NH
WXOJ-LP, VALLEY FREE RADIO, NORTHAMPTON, MA
AUSTIN AIRWAVES, INC., AUSTIN, TX
CHIRP-CHICAGO INDEPENDENT RADIO PROJECT
NEW MEXICO MEDIA LITERACY PROJECT
KDRT-LP, DAVIS COMMUNITY RADIO, DAVIS, CA
KREV-LP, 104.7, UNITED METHODIST CHURCH OF ESTES PARK, CO
KXRG-LP, HONOLULU, HI
WXCS-LP, CAMBRIDGE COMMUNITY RADIO ASSOCIATION,
CAMBRIDGE SPRINGS, PA
WCRS-LP, SIMPLY LIVING, COLUMBUS, OH
WRYR-LP, WRYR COMMUNITY RADIO, SHERWOOD, MD
WXBH-LP, LOUISVILLE COMMUNITY RADIO, LOUISVILLE, KY
KPCN-LP, PINEROS Y CAMPESINOS UNIDOS DEL NOROESTE, WOODBURN, OR
MULTICULTURAL ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHERN OREGON, KSKQ COMMUNITY RADIO
WIDE-LP MADISON, WI
FOREST HILLS SCHOOL DISTRICT, CINCINNATI, OH
KKDS-LP, BLUE OX YOUTH AND COMMUNITY RADIO, EUREKA, CA
WSLR-LP, Sarasota Local Radio, Sarasota, FL
KLDK-LP, Embudo Valley Community Library, Dixon, NM
KOCZ-LP, Southern Development Foundation, Opelousas, LA

The Comments are available at the Electronic Comment Filing system page on the FCC's website, and will be up on prometheus' website soon.

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