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FCC accepts applications for low power FM stations

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    NMU         WASHINGTON, D.C.         Broadcasting         Jan 15, 2001    

FCC accepts applications for low power FM stations

  • Although recently passed legislation may hinder FCC efforts to pepper the dial with new stations, the FCC has accepted new applications which meet the strict statutory requirements.

Hundreds of new voices may be heard on the radio in the coming months as the Federal Communications Commission pushes forward in its effort to grant low power FM licenses to nonprofit organizations.

The Federal Communications Commission announced in December that it will accept applications for 255 low power FM licenses despite the passage of recent legislation aimed at reducing efforts to promote such licenses and will begin granting construction permits this month.

“The licensing of these first low power radio stations will benefit our communities and enhance the diversity of our society,” FCC Chairman William Kennard said in a press release.

One year ago, the FCC approved a licensing plan to increase programming diversity on the radio by granting LPFM licenses to thousands of organizations across the country. The new low power stations will have power levels of 50 to 100 watts and cover a radius of about three miles. The FCC requires applicants for the low power licenses to be nonprofit organizations that serve the local community. The agency is expected to award construction permits by the end of January.

While recently passed legislation drastically lessened the prognosis for these plans, it does not kill them. Attached to an appropriations bill passed by Congress in the waning days of the legislative session, the Radio Broadcasting Preservation Act requires that stations be spaced at least two radio channels apart, a practice known as “third-adjacent channel protection.” However, as an experiment, the bill allows the FCC to drop the minimum separation requirements in nine test markets to determine whether more closely spaced stations would interfere with existing stations. The FCC must report its results to Congress by Feb. 1, and at that time may ask Congress to drop its restrictions.

Any licenses the FCC grants will meet the third-adjacent channel protection requirements.

In November, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia heard arguments from the National Association of Broadcasters protesting the FCC’s proposal for the low powered stations. The NAB contended that relaxing spectrum protections will cause interference with existing channels. The appeals court has yet to decide the case.

(National Ass’n of Broadcasters v. FCC; Media Counsel: Donald Verrilli, Jenner & Block, Washington, D.C.) EH

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