The Federal Communications Commission at its July 12 open meeting took the first step toward implementing the Local Community Radio Act of 2010, a new law that allows the agency to approve more licenses to operate low-power FM radio stations in the country.
In a 4-0 vote, the commission released a third further notice of proposed rulemaking laying out a plan of action for clearing out the queue of pending translator station applications while also processing new applications for low-power FM community radio stations.
An application window for new low-power FM stations could be open as early as the summer of 2012, the FCC said.
The applications for new translators—low-power stations that can only rebroadcast the signal of a full-power station—would be processed for small markets and rural communities, under the agency's rulemaking.
In order to leave some space for new low-power FM stations, the commission is proposing to dismiss translator applications in larger markets where new translators would fill up any remaining available space appropriate for low-power stations.
In 2007, the FCC concluded that processing as many as 6,500 pending FM translator applications filed in Auction No. 83 would frustrate the development of low-power FM radio service. The agency at that time established a going-forward limit of 10 pending applications per applicant, but then imposed a freeze to permit the consideration of petitions for reconsideration of the limit.
The Local Community Radio Act requires the FCC to ensure that licenses are available for lower-power FM and FM translator stations, with licensing decisions based on community needs and translator and low-power FM stations always staying “equal” in status. As such, the NPRM seeks comment on these standards, and concludes that the existing 10-application cap is “inconsistent” with the Act's mandates.
In doing so, the FCC is proposing to adopt a translator application processing policy based on the availability of spectrum for low-power FM stations in specific markets.
Commenting on the FCC's action, Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), the lead sponsor of the Local Community Radio Act, said, “I am delighted to see that the FCC is moving forward to carry out legislation I championed for so many years. This is a major victory for community radio, and I urge the FCC to license as many LPFM stations as possible.”
By Paul Barbagallo
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