LPFM protection of FM translator input signals modified in several respects

In further fallout from the October shutdown of the federal government, the Commission has extended the LPFM filing window by 16 days. As a result, the window – which has been open since the FCC reopened its doors again on October 17 – will stay open until November 14, 2013 at 6:00 p.m. ESTPlease revise your calendars accordingly.

In other LPFM scheduling news, the Media Bureau has also rescheduled an LPFM webinar for October 24, 2013 from 1:00-2:30 p.m. Topics covered will include “LPFM Channel Finder, creating a CDBS account, completing Form 318, and any other issues related to the LPFM window and the filing process”. You can send in your own questions by email (lpfm@fcc.gov) or by Twitter (hashtag – #LPFMquestions).  

Before you formulate your list of questions, you should be sure to take a look at the first order the Commission released when it got back to work post-shutdown. In fairness to the Commission, it had adopted this order – the Sixth Order on Reconsideration (Sixth LPFM Recon Order) – on September 30, the day before the shutdown. But it wasn’t able to get the order out the door before Congress’s shenanigans slammed the door shut on October 1, so the order sat in limbo for the 16 days of the shutdown.

In the Sixth LPFM Recon Order the Commission has rejected a number of petitions for reconsideration filed with respect to last December’s Sixth Report and Order in the long-running LPFM rulemaking. The Sixth LPFM Recon Order largely leaves things the way they were: eligibility and attribution rules remain unchanged; LP10 stations are still a no-go (ditto for LP50 stations, which had been proposed by one petitioner); and, once one LPFM application from an MX grouping has been granted, the Commission will not take the time and trouble to sift through the losers to see if any of them could be granted, too. 

The Sixth LPFM Recon Order does clarify a couple of points that LPFM applicants and others should be aware of. In particular, the Commission specifies that post-window LPFM amendments that reduce the applicant’s comparative or basic eligibility will be held against the applicant. (Conversely, long-established policy provides that an LPFM applicant will not be permitted to improve its comparative position through post-window amendments.)

The Commission makes a couple of relatively small changes to the rules mandating protection that LPFM applicants must accord to the input channels of translators and boosters. While LPFMers have always been expected to protect input signals even if those signals were coming from some other translator (as opposed to a full-power) station, the text of the relevant rule as originally adopted seemed to accord that protection only to input signals from full-service stations. No more: the rule has been tweaked so that it clearly applies to both full-service and translator inputs.

The Sixth LPFM Recon Order also helps LPFM applicants somewhat with respect to their obligations relative to protection of off-air input signals on third adjacent channels to the proposed LPFM station. Originally, the applicable rule barred any actual interference to such input signals “at all locations”. But, at the urging of an LPFM-oriented petitioner, the Commission has concluded that that original approach was too broad. Rather, the “only technically relevant” point at which predicted interference should be measured is the location of the translator’s receive antenna. 

And as to which input signals are entitled to protection, the Commission has now made clear that the magic date of June 17, 2013 applies. That, of course, is the date that marked the public notice of the LPFM window opportunity. Our readers will recall that, when it issued that notice, the Media Bureau made clear that LPFM applicants would have to protect translator proposals that had been filed prior to June 17, but not proposals filed on or after June 17. With the Sixth LPFM Recon Order, the Commission has now clarified that LPFM applications must protect translator input signals that were either (a) in use prior to June 17 or (b) proposed in an application filed with the Commission prior to that date.

The Sixth LPFM Recon Order addresses a number of other details of varying specificity and applicability. Would-be LPFM applicants would be well-advised to take a careful look at the entire order before finalizing their applications. Fortunately for them, they’ve now got an extra 16 days in which take care of that chore.