FCC Creates Another LPFM Loophole, Courts to Consider a Third

Right at about the same time the FCC granted special temporary authority to a pirate station in Nevada to operate without a license, the agency told a group of irate listeners in Texas that they, too, could have a station if they wanted to.
How? Some 263 of them wrote letters to the FCC requesting it deny the transfer of KTPB-FM’s license from a community college to the Educational Media Foundation. The well-known godcaster will flip the station’s format from classical to one of its “alternative” offerings.
Seemingly impressed by the outpouring of support for classical music, thought the FCC denied the listeners’ objections to the license transfer it entertained the option of them applying for an LPFM station license in order to “fill any programming void left by the sale of the station to EMF and change in format that EMF may make.”
The LPFM license application must be filed within 90 days, but the FCC’s already even identified a transmitter site and open frequency for the new station, which will save the applicants some time and energy should they choose to pursue this special opportunity.
Perhaps these piecemeal, instance-specific LPFM authorizations signal a change in policy toward the expansion of the service – instead of opening up opportunities nationwide, the FCC would rather citizens take the initiative. The Radio Goldfield case is certainly not the first of its kind: in 2002 talk radio giant Don Imus got dinged for running an unlicensed microradio station on his ranch in New Mexico, and may have sorted matters out with some help from Sen. John McCain.
In another loophole dimension, San Francisco Liberation Radio has a Valentine’s Day date with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, contesting the method by which the FCC seized the station’s gear in 2003. According to the station’s lawyers, the FCC
utilized a maritime law to conduct the raid without giving advance notice to the station, arguing that a radio station is like a ship that may sail away in the night. The station, with a volunteer staff of nearly 60 people, was located in a house firmly rooted upon land and posed no danger of trying to “escape,” nor was it interfering with any other station’s broadcasts. It had been broadcasting at 100 watts in San Francisco for 11 years and had been in consistent contact with the FCC regarding licensing matters.
The oral argument will be conducted at the UC Berkeley School of Law and is open to the public.