As is well known by now, the FCC at last has finalized its plan to address the backlog of about 6,500 FM translator applications that still linger from a March 2003 filing window and to open a new filing opportunity for Low Power FM (“LPFM”) stations.
The FCC’s task was both prodded and complicated by the Local Community Radio Act of 2010 (the “LCRA”), which required that it balance translator grants against the need for preserving filing opportunities for new LPFMs. In resolving the choice between the two media, the five commissioners made it clear that the FCC overwhelmingly favors LPFM as holding a promise to expand locally originated service to narrow constituencies.
Broadcasters have long considered the LPFM service as their enemy. The NAB, in particular, has fought LPFM as a mortal threat as a source of both competition and interference. But let’s put the matter in perspective. Contrary to established wisdom, development of the LPFM service just might prove to benefit a wide variety of radio licensees. Broadcaster fears of lax technical oversight of LPFM and the consequent potential for creating pockets of interference may prove to be justified. Yet, broadcasters just might welcome the relief that LPFM can provide to satisfy public and Congressional pressure to devote commercially impractical levels of service to niche markets. Indeed, many radio licensees may come to openly support LPFM entrants in recognition of the local orientation they are chartered to create, the creation of a much-needed training ground for radio professionals, and the positive publicity that such support is apt to generate.
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