The FCC has released its long-awaited economic assessment of the LPFM radio service. Although the need for such a study was initially dismissed as unnecessary more than eight years ago, the commercial broadcast lobby forced the agency to conduct the research as part of the compromise which allowed for the passage of the Local Community Radio Act last year.
Radio Survivor’s Paul Riismandel has a good overview of the report and its findings. More detail below on salient points: Continue reading “FCC: LPFM a Tiny Fish in Big Pond”
Reply comments in the FCC’s ongoing rulemaking to expand the LPFM service are due on September 27. REC Networks‘ Michi Eyre has written an excellent (and wonky!) summary of comments filed in the proceeding to date by those who have focused on the elephant in the room – the troubled relationship between LPFM and FM translator stations.
Over the last twenty years, the use of FM translators has evolved dramatically. Once a secondary service, such stations are now being deployed as stand-alone outlets around the country. Following the creation of the LPFM service, broadcasters made a run on spectrum for FM translators which has resulted in seven translators going on the air for every one LPFM station over the last decade.
The FCC is now attempting to “level the playing field” so that the explosive growth of translators does not suffocate any LPFM expansion. Continue reading “FCC Mulls Fine Print of LPFM”
This week the FCC released another Notice of Proposed Rulemaking designed to expand the LPFM service, with special emphasis on the placement of new LPFM stations in cities. The primary point of contention is how the agency should treat LPFM stations with regard to FM translators.
(A quick overview: LPFM stations broadcast with 100 watts or less and must be live and local, while FM translators can broadcast with up to 250 watts and may not originate their own programming.)
The spectral conflict between LPFM and translator stations is a big one. On purely technical grounds they are essentially equivalent services, but by rule translators may be sited closer to neighbors on the dial than LPFM stations can. In addition, since the first round of LPFMs were licensed a decade ago (of which 829 are on the air), several thousand FM translators have begun broadcasting in the intervening years. Continue reading “FCC Considers LPFM Expansion”
As part of the compromises made to pass the Local Community Radio Act through Congress, a provision was inserted which requires the Federal Communications Commission to examine the “economic impact” LPFM stations have on full-power FM stations.
Comments on the proposed ground-rules of the “study” are due to the FCC in a month, and the study itself is supposed to be tendered to Congress early next year.
The FCC must probe two questions: what effects will an LPFM expansion have on the advertising revenue and audience-share of full-power radio stations?
On its face, the “study” is nothing more than a make-work exercise for the FCC, arguably designed to slow down the expansion of the LPFM service. Its primary questions are absurd – and pretty simply answered. Continue reading “"Studying" the Implicatons of LPFM's Expansion”
Last week, the founder and Director of Electromagnetism of the Prometheus Radio Project, Pete Tridish, announced his departure from the organization.
Beginning from a background in unlicensed broadcasting based around the Philadelphia station Radio Mutiny, Pete was instrumental in not only organizing microbroadcasters in the lead-up to the FCC’s debate over LPFM more than 10 years ago, but he also worked tirelessly to convince Congress to pass the Local Community Radio Act late last year, which will expand the number of LPFM stations on the nation’s dial.
Apparently, his departure has been in the works for several months, but the announcement was held off so as to not detract from the LCRA advocacy campaign. Continue reading “Prometheus Radio Project Founder Moving On”
From the didn’t-have-time-to-mention-last-year department: Radio World reports that more than 400 FM translator stations are now on the air simulcasting AM radio programming.
This is the result of a 2009 FCC decision allowing AM stations to apply for FM repeaters in a quest to find “relief” from the increasing noise floor on the AM dial. Spectrally, it’s a duplicative waste. Continue reading “AM-to-FM Simulcasters Top 400”
Congratulations to everyone who worked tirelessly – both over the last 10 years and the last two weeks – to convince Congress to finally approve the Local Community Radio Act. Given the recent changes in the political winds of D.C., this was most likely the very last chance to fundamentally expand the LPFM radio service.
Things literally came down to the wire: after locking the bill in stasis for months with secret holds from industry-friendly Senators, last-minute negotiations between LPFM proponents and the National Association of Broadcasters, combined with a multi-faceted grassroots lobbying blitz, ended up in a hasty rewrite of the actual legislation, which the House quickly approved on Friday and the Senate blessed on Saturday. President Obama’s signature is a given. Continue reading “LPFM's Second Wave”
What is LPFM?
LPFM stands for Low Power FM radio broadcasting. In the United States, the lowest minimum wattage a licensed FM radio station may have is 100 watts. There are lower-power FM transmitters in use, though, by some stations who want to increase their coverage area by extending their signal. These are called translators or boosters.
While these may only have a wattage measured in a range from dozens to hundreds, they are not true broadcast stations by the FCC’s definitions – they do not originate their own programming. They rely on a “parent” station to provide what they air.
Ham (amateur) radio uses a similar system called a repeater; people don’t broadcast from it. They shoot a signal into it, and then it gets re-broadcast to an area larger than what ham operators might reach with their own gear. In a nutshell, translators and boosters are the repeaters of FM radio.
LPFM is the common term used to define an FM broadcast station that originates its own programming but has the power of a translator or booster. Under current FCC rules, operating such a station is simply not allowed. You may also see LPFM referred to by other terms – like “LPRS,” “microradio,” and “mini-FM,” but they all mean the same thing. Continue reading “The History of LPFM”
Michael Lahey, the maker of what most likely is the best documentary yet-produced on the modern microradio/LPFM movement, Making Waves, has announced that the film is now available for free viewing online at Fancast (ironically, a Comcast-owned outlet).
In addition, Lahey says there’s a good chance that Netflix will pick up distribution of the documentary. Here’s how he says we can all help going about making that happen: Continue reading “Making Waves on Verge of Larger Distribution”
An unknown number of Republican Senators have placed a hold on the Local Community Radio Act.
For those not up on the intricacies of our corrupt political system, Senators have the privilege of placing an indefinite pause on action of any legislation they deem to be “detrimental” to their constituents. Oftentimes, Senate holds are used as favors to well-moneyed constituents or as bargaining chips. Continue reading “LPFM Bill Stalled in Senate”