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Low-Power FM in the news

Posted on November 22, 2007 10:37 PM |Permalink |Comments (0)

Contact: Pete Tridish, Prometheus Radio Project Founder
215-727-9620 x 501, 215-605-9297,

On Tuesday, November 20th, the Federal Communications Commission
announced that it was ready to pass a set of provisions amending the
rules that govern the low power FM radio (LPFM) service -- a
noncommercial radio service that hundreds of schools, churches,
municipalities, and community groups use to connect with their local
communities. Below is the press statement of Pete Tridish, founder of
the Prometheus Radio Project, on the announcement.

"In recent weeks, the Federal Communications Commission, and FCC
Chairman Kevin Martin, have made strong public statements about
supporting the low power FM radio service, and the vital work that it
does nationwide. As the commission works at its November 27th meeting
to make decisions about the future of LPFM, they must lay the groundwork
to ensure that LPFM will not only be available in rural areas in the
future. They must also protect the low power stations from losing their
frequencies to full power stations that encroach upon their signals, and
threaten to knock them off the air.

As a diverse set of groups, including Prometheus, have proposed over
recent years, the FCC must prioritize local low power FM radio stations
over translator chains fed by distant signals. The FCC has frozen the
granting of translator licenses for the time being, to investigate the
practices of these chains and to balance the priority of distant
translator use with the needs of local radio. The FCC cannot move to
lift the current freeze on the granting of licenses to these translator
chains without prioritizing local radio over these distant-fed
translators. Without remedying this problem, the Commission is telling
the American public that they are prioritizing these distant voices,
once and for all, and informing local groups that would like one single,
local, hundred-watt-or-less radio station that there is no room on the
dial left for them.

When Congress temporarily limited LPFM in 2000, they mandated that the
FCC study whether or not there would be room for these vital stations in
America's cities and smaller communities. During the exact moment when
this study and its technical field tests were being completed in 2003,
the FCC made the mistake of allowing a handful of speculators to apply
for translator licenses on thousands of the very same channels that had
been promised for LPFM use. When it comes to translators and low power
FM radio stations, the FCC allocates spectrum based simply upon who
filed their application first. If the FCC chooses to prioritize these
translator applicants, all of the frequencies that the FCC designed for
LPFM use back in 2000 will have been given away.

In that 2003 window, a single translator applicant applied for 2500
licenses to broadcast, nationwide. One radio station currently has 792
translator applications repeating its signal.

In 2005, the FCC wisely froze translator applications like those listed
above in order to find an intelligent resolution. In recent statements,
Chairman Martin announced a limited proposal to reject some of these
applicants, but if the FCC wants to support low power FM radio, they
have a lot of work to do.

No matter what happens in Congress, LPFM will only be available in
America's cities if the FCC acts to make room for it. The Commission
needs to revise the spectrum priority relationship between LPFMs and
these distant translator chains. There are a number of ways that this
can be done without affecting the legitimate use of repeating stations
by local networks.

In terms of low power FM stations being encroached upon by full power
stations that want their signals -- while dozens of stations are under
threat of this happening in the next weeks or months, the Commission and
its staff should be commended for the work they've done, case by case,
to make room for both these threatened stations and the full power
stations moving into their path.

We encourage the Commission to continue to address the simplest
displacement cases now and relieve the hold up on some of these less
problematic encroachments. The few, tougher cases should remain on hold
for settlement until, through further comment, more innovative solutions
are found. Also, hasty judgment should not be made on the fate of low
power stations suffering dramatically increased interference through
encroachments -- more solutions can be found in these cases after
further comment. Another excellent option for frequency availability
for LPFMs at the disposal of the Commission is to use more detailed
engineering methods -- methods which can open up a limited number of new
options for communities. This could be exciting if the order of
application problem (between the chains that got an opportunity to apply
before communities got their chance) were resolved.

The statements that the FCC and Chairman Martin have made on the small
ameliorative measures they might take for LPFM are helpful and well
intentioned, and we'd like to give credit where credit is due -- but all
of these measures pale in contrast to the prospect of America's cities
never getting a fair chance at low power radio, and the importance of
keeping low power FM radio stations serving their full communities.

Prometheus would heartily congratulate the hard work of the Chairman
Martin and the FCC staff on this new low power notice, so long as the
Commission does not:

1) foreclose the LPFM opportunity in the cities by ignoring the
translator/LPFM priority problem, and

2) make hasty judgment on the hardest encroachment cases, and cases that
do not involve displacement but do involve significant interference.
These should be resolved after another round of comment and creative
problem solving."

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hannah sassaman

building radio stations = awesome

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