The news from the FCC for those stations looking to begin broadcasting on an FM frequency or to use a previously applied translator application became clearer last month when the FCC issued its decision on how to proceed with the processing the 2003 translator applications and prospective LPFM applications.

What is LPFM?  LPFM is a relatively new class of radio stations created by the FCC which will allow low power operations with up to 100 watts.  The authorized station could have an effective coverage area of approximately 3.5 miles.

The 2003 filing window for translators resulted in approximately 6,000 unprocessed applications for FM translators (which are essentially transmitters that rebroadcast an existing station).  The result of the recent FCC decision is that a huge portion of those applications have been dismissed due to numerical and technical limitations placed on the 2003 applicants.

For stations looking to start broadcasting, there is a “gold rush” about to start.

Much has changed since 2003 with respect to what is considered a “real” station.  Webcasting has provided legitimacy to many stations.  Apps and the ability to hear stations via means than traditional FM frequencies has provided a means and a more meaningful level of existence to many student organizations.  These changes have also provided student organizations a means to start a new station without facing obstacles such as a lack of an available frequency and the costs associated with a transmitter and the associated equipment and other expenses.  However, the prospect of an LPFM license has kept the “dream” of an FM license alive for many student organizations that would have otherwise prevented your station from obtaining an FM license. The FCC act makes the dream a very realistic outcome for many student organizations if they act now.

Why do you need to act now?

The FCC has announced that it will begin accepting LPFM applications from October 15 through 29, 2013.

What needs to be done?

  • You need to consider a time line and budget for the project and this can be tricky for a student organization.
    • The timeline must include working on this project during summer months.
    • The timeline must include developing a budget for the LPFM station and getting the funds approved either now (for 2013-14 or 2014-5).
    • You also need to determine who will be the licensee for the station and obtain their approval.
  • You should also be fully aware of the rules concerning this process!
    • Your schools’ legal counsel will not be aware of all of the rules.
    • They will likely hire outside attorneys and this can get expensive.
    • If you are familiar with the rules, you can limit the expense of using lawyers.
  • Using lawyers can be beneficial.
    • Many of the likely applicants will be organizations that have limited resources and not fully understand the rules concerning applications or the process established to determine which applicant would be awarded a contested frequency.
    • If you succeed in having the school apply for the license using an FCC lawyer, you will likely have the financial and legal resources to outlast a less well financed organization.
  • You need to stay on-top of the situation and maintain support of the effort.
  • To read the word from the FCC, see http://www.fcc.gov/encyclopedia/low-power-fm-broadcast-radio-stations-lpfm.  In short, you need to file the application by 6:00 pm EDT on October 29, 2013.   CBI can help!  Join the CBI LPFM email list, which is community of people just like you who are seeking LPFM licenses and can likely point you in the right direction.  Click here to subscribe to the group.  

    What needs to be done to apply?

    1.  Determine if there is a frequency available to you at a location you can use.

    Start by using a smart phone app to determine the coordinates of your stations location or where you think might be a good location.   Think a tall, on campus building.  That is a good rough start.  Don’t have a smart phone, borrow one or even better, borrow a GPS.

    Use the FCC channel finder to see if something is available.  Do not be discouraged if the results do not produce positive results.  Moving to another location on campus could produce positive results.  Also, be aware that the FCC tool or any tool you find on-line will only produce results that reflect the current situation and stations do move which happens more often than you might think.  The best information can be obtained by engaging a qualified and reputable consulting engineer.   For example, one station had literally no options using the FCC’s channel finder in the past.  Things have changed a lot in the last year and there are more frequencies available than before.  The station mentioned now has a number of frequencies it can apply for.

    2. If there is an available frequency at the location you entered, you need to either gain permission of the school to apply for the license or create an non-profit organization which would hold the license.  In either situation, if the transmitter location is on school grounds, you will need to obtain permission from the school to install the antenna and transmitter.  If the location is not on school grounds, you will need to negotiate a lease and this is the less desirable option in most cases.

    3.  You should be aware that others may apply for the same frequency or a nearby frequency which cause problems.  This is why hiring an attorney would be something you should consider in order to give you the best chance to obtain the frequency.  Competing (“mutually”) exclusive applications will be settled by a point scale.  You should be aware of the point scale and subsequent tie breakers/negotiations in advance of filing your application.

    • Once the filing window closes, the FCC will evaluate applications and publish a list identifying all groups of mutually exclusive applications. Such applications will be awarded points to determine the tentative selectee.  Unless resolved by settlement pursuant to paragraph (e) of this section, the tentative selectee will be the applicant within each group with the highest point total.  Mutually exclusive applicants may propose a settlement at any time during the selection process after the release of a public notice announcing the mutually exclusive groups.  Settlement proposals must comply with the Commission’s rules and policies regarding settlements, including the requirements of §§ 73.3525, 73.3588 and 73.3589.  Settlement proposals may include time-share agreements that comply with the requirements of paragraph (c) of this section, provided that such agreements may not be filed for the purpose of point aggregation outside of the 90 day period set forth in paragraph (c) of this section.
    • (1) Established community presence.  An applicant must, for a period of at least two years prior to application and at all times thereafter, have qualified as local pursuant to Section 73.853(b) of this Part.  Applicants claiming a point for this criterion must submit any documentation specified in FCC Form 318 at the time of filing their applications.(2)  Local program origination.  The applicant must pledge to originate locally at least eight hours of programming per day.  For purposes of this criterion, local origination is the production of programming by the licensee, within ten miles of the coordinates of the proposed transmitting antenna.  Local origination includes licensee produced call-in shows, music selected and played by a disc jockey present on site, broadcasts of events at local schools, and broadcasts of musical performances at a local studio or festival, whether recorded or live.  Local origination does not include the broadcast of repetitive or automated programs or time-shifted recordings of non-local programming whatever its source.  In addition, local origination does not include a local program that has been broadcast twice, even if the licensee broadcasts the program on a different day or makes small variations in the program thereafter.

      (3) Main studio.  The applicant must pledge to maintain a publicly accessible main studio that has local program origination capability, is reachable by telephone, is staffed at least 20 hours per week between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m., and is located within 16.1 km (10 miles) of the proposed site for the transmitting antenna for applicants in the top 50 urban markets and 32.1 km (20 miles) for applicants outside the top 50 urban markets.  Applicants claiming a point under this criterion must specify the proposed address and telephone number for the proposed main studio in FCC Form 318 at the time of filing their applications.

      (4) Local program origination and main studio.  The applicant must make both the local program origination and main studio pledges set forth in subparagraphs (2) and (3).

      (5) Diversity of ownership.  An applicant must hold no attributable interests in any other broadcast station.

      (6) Tribal Applicants serving Tribal Lands.  The applicant must be a Tribal Applicant, as defined in Section 73.853(c) of this Part, and the proposed site for the transmitting antenna must be located on that Tribal Applicant’s “Tribal Lands,” as defined in Section 73.7000 of this Part.  Applicants claiming a point for this criterion must submit the documentation set forth in FCC Form 318 at the time of filing their applications.

  • How Long will it take to get a license?  If there are no competing applications, expect the construction permit to be issued before the end of the school year.  If there are competing applications, the process and time line becomes more complicated.  If a construction permit is awarded, you will have 18 months to complete the application for license, which may be extended under certain circumstances.

    How much will this cost?  There are too many factors at play here to give you an answer, but it could be very little or a lot.  The answer depends on whether or not you have a studio, an existing operation, site location and more.  Join the CBI lpfm email list now to ask your questions and get very quick feedback.  The cost could be a few thousand or tens of thousands.  The good news is that if you have approvals from the school to file the application, they will likely have required you to determine how to fund the proposal.

 

CBI is on-top of this issue.  While CBI will not represent you legally you or provide you with specific advice concerning any application, it will provide you with general information concerning the topic and provide you with contact information for legal and technical information from those we have worked with in the past and a have a large degree of certainty that you will be provided good advice.

Our goal with this post is to make you aware of the need to act on an application that is subject to this ruling and to make you aware of the opportunities that this ruling might make available to you for an LPFM license, which could result in a 100 watt station (in practical terms, provide your station with a coverage area of 3.5 miles which should cover your campus and some of the surrounding community.

One last item of note is that LPFM stations can also have translators which would extend their coverage area!

If you need more information or have questions, please contact us!

Be aware, it is a common misconception that schools with full powered stations are not able to apply for an LPFM license for a student station.  That had been true in the past, but no longer.

“159. REC and Common Frequency propose that we consider applications for student-run
stations even if there are competing applications, so that all applicants can participate in settlements and
time sharing negotiations.378 We agree that it would serve the public interest to eliminate this automatic
dismissal requirement. When the Commission first adopted this exception to the general prohibition on
cross-ownership, it was seeking to strike a balance between an LPFM service comprised entirely of new
entrants and one which would enable new speakers including students to gain experience in the broadcast
field, even if their universities held other broadcast interests.379 The Commission believed that the
exception properly balanced the interests of local groups in acquiring a first broadcast facility and of
university licensees in providing a distinct media outlet for students.380 Our decision today, however,
alters the LPFM comparative process by adding a selection criterion for applicants with no other
broadcast interests. Given this change, we believe it is appropriate to eliminate our limitation on
eligibility for student-run LPFM applications by schools with non-student run full power broadcast
stations.”

How can I deter

 

From the report and order.