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Wednesday, July 17, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Clearing Low Power FM Requests an FCC Priority

WASHINGTON (CN) - The Federal Communications Commission announced caps on the number of applications it will consider for operation of low power FM stations, so it may process the 6,500 applications outstanding since 2003.

The FCC will adopt a national cap of 50 applications and a market-based cap of one application per applicant in 156 markets where speculation is likely to drive multiple applications for most of the remaining low power FM bandwidth.

Previously, the FCC had imposed a cap of ten applications per market.

The FCC said its goal is to make sure that what is likely to be the final availability of open bandwidth is used "to nurture and promote a community radio service that can respond to unmet listener needs and underserved communities in many urban areas."

Low power FM stations are authorized for non-commercial educational broadcasting and operate at about 100 watts of power, limiting their broadcast range to about a 3.5 mile radius.

The FCC also dropped the requirement that established stations have three channels of separation on either side of their broadcast frequency, further implementing the Local Community Radio Act. This makes more bandwidth available for low power stations.

Significant to rural listeners of non-profit radio stations, such as National Public Radio member stations, the FCC will continue to allow those stations to apply for and operate low power translators to fill coverage gaps in their full power stations, so long as they do not interfere with viable low power stations.

The FCC also will allow use of FM translators issued licenses or permits after May 1, 2009 to rebroadcast local AM radio stations at night. In a previous order, the FCC had limited rebroadcasting to encourage low power stations to develop their own programming.

The FCC determined that this rebroadcasting does not inhibit program and station development on FM stations and can actually help those stations develop audiences.

The public is invited to comment on ways to protect the integrity of transmissions as more stations are allowed to operate closer together on the FM dial.

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