Order Code RL30462
CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
Low Power FM Radio Service:
Regulatory and Congressional Issues
Updated January 5, 2001
Gwenell L. Waters Bass and Richard M. Nunno
Resources, Science, and Industry Division
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
Low Power FM Radio Service:
Regulatory and Congressional Issues
In response to thousands of inquiries annually from individuals and groups
wishing to start a low power radio station for broadcasting to local communities, the
Federal Communication Commission (FCC) has adopted rules for a new, low power
FM radio (LPFM) service. The service consists of two classes of LPFM radio stations
with maximum power levels of 10 watts and 100 watts. The rules contain interference
protection criteria to help ensure that the LPFM service protects and preserves the
technical integrity of existing radio service. However, the main arguments against
LPFM are based on concerns over interference with existing FM radio broadcasts,
and the potential that LPFM might impede the future transition to digital audio
Some Members are seeking to severely scale back or nullify the FCC’s decision
to issue LPFM licenses, while other Members support the FCC ruling. On April 14,
2000 the House passed the Radio Broadcasting Preservation Act of 2000 (H.R. 3439,
amended), which would have the effect of eliminating about 75% of the number of
potential LPFM licenses that could be granted by preventing licenses in the third
adjacent channel to incumbent full-power FM broadcasters. Three bills have been
introduced in the Senate: S. 2068 would prohibit the FCC from authorizing LPFM
licenses; S. 2518 (later introduced in modified form as S. 2989) would permit the
introduction of LPFM licenses while studying whether LPFM is causing harmful
interference to full-power broadcasters; and S. 3020 is similar to the House-passed
bill. Language similar to the House-passed bill was inserted into the FY 2001 District
of Columbia Appropriations bill (H.R. 5547), which was incorporated in the
Commerce, Justice, and State Appropriations bill (H.R. 4942) that passed Congress
on December 15, 2000 (Conf. Rept. 106-1005), and signed into law (P.L.106-553)
on December 21, 2000. This report will be updated as necessary.
FCC Ruling . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
LPFM in the Context of the U.S. Radio Industry . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
Arguments For and Against the Provision of LPFM Licenses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Groups Opposed to LPFM . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Groups Supporting LPFM . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Commissioners’ Positions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Technical Issues . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Economic/Policy Issues . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Congressional Activity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
FCC Licensing Activity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
Low Power FM Radio Service:
Regulatory and Congressional Issues
On January 20, 2000, the FCC adopted rules creating a new, low power FM
radio (LPFM) service.1 The new LPFM service will include two classes of LPFM
radio stations to operate within the FM radio frequency band (88-108 MHz) with
power levels from 1-10 watts (LP10) and 50-100 watts (LP100) respectively. The 10
watt stations (called “microradio”) will be able to reach an area with a radius of one
to two miles, and the 100 watt stations will reach within approximately a three and
a half mile radius.
The FCC rules include provisions to protect all full power radio stations from
radio interference by LPFM stations. LPFM, however, will have no protection from
interference. To prevent interference with existing FM stations, the frequencies for
LPFM stations may not be placed on the same channel (co-channel), or the first or
second adjacent channels on the FM radio band. LPFM stations, however, will not
be required to protect stations three channels away (third adjacent channel), as is
required for full power stations. For example, under rules applicable to existing full
power radio stations where there is a station on 93.5, there is currently no station in
the same geographic area on 93.7 (the first adjacent channel), 93.9 (the second
adjacent channel) or 94.1 (the third adjacent channel). The new spacing criteria
would allow a new LPFM station to be licensed on the third adjacent channel, or 94.1.
Contrary to some comments in the proceeding, the FCC determined that LPFM
stations will not cause any unacceptable levels of interference to existing radio
stations separated by three channels.
Eligible LPFM licensees will be non-profit government or educational
institutions, or public safety or transportation services. No existing broadcasting
licensee or media entity (e.g., cable or newspapers) can have an ownership interest or
any program or operating agreement with an LPFM station. In addition, to encourage
locally originated programming, LPFM stations will be prohibited from operating as
translators or boosters.2 LPFM stations will be licensed exclusively to local entities
for the first two years of license availability. Later, however, non-local entities will be
eligible for licenses. Each licensee may own only one station in any given community.
Eventually, a licensee may own up to ten stations nationwide. Cases of mutual
FCC 00-19, Report and Order, MM Docket 99-25, released January 27, 2000.
Translators are services that re-broadcast the signal of a primary FM station to areas that
would otherwise have poor reception due to distance or terrain barriers, e.g., a mountain.
Boosters are essentially translators that use the same frequency as the primary FM station.
exclusivity (i.e., when the FCC receives more than one application for an LPFM
license in the same location and frequency) will be resolved through a selection
process whereby points are awarded for (1) having an established local presence, (2)
pledging to operate at least 12 hours daily, and (3) pledging to air locally originated
programming. The point system is designed to encourage mutually exclusive
applicants to combine their applications with other applicants.
The FCC rule contains a provision addressing “pirate” radio stations (operators
of illegal, unlicensed broadcast stations, which can normally be subjected to fines, loss
of equipment, or even imprisonment). Such groups may apply for licenses if they had
voluntarily ceased unlicensed operation no later than February 26, 1999, without an
order from the FCC, or if they had ceased unlicensed operation within 24 hours of
being advised by the FCC to do so. Those who continued to broadcast illegally will
be ineligible for LPFM licenses.
LPFM in the Context of the U.S. Radio Industry
For many years, the FCC has been receiving thousands of inquiries annually from
individuals and groups wishing to start low power or “micro” radio stations for small
communities. In an attempt to meet that demand, the FCC in a Notice of Proposed
Rulemaking (NPRM) adopted on January 28, 1999, proposed to license new 1000
watt and 100 watt LPFM radio stations, and sought comments on establishing a third
class of microradio stations at power levels from 1 to10 watts. The FCC received a
very large number of comments in this proceeding (over 3300). This led to several
extensions of the comment/reply comment deadlines, which finally closed November
The FCC has allotted licenses for full power FM stations by requiring specified
minimum distance separations between stations on the same channel and within three
adjacent channels, providing a service area within which their signals are protected
from interference. To protect existing stations, LPFM stations will be required to
meet minimum distance separations. Also, full power stations will operate at much
higher power levels (from 6,000 to 100,000 watts, depending on the license class)
than LPFM stations, making interference caused by LPFM on full power FM
broadcasts less likely.
Prior to adoption of the LPFM rule, the FCC allowed unlicensed stations to
operate on the AM and FM bands using extremely low powered radio transmission
devices covered under Part 15 of the FCC’s rules. On FM frequencies, these devices
are limited to an effective service range of approximately 11 to 30 meters.3 On AM
frequencies, they are limited to about 61 to 76 meters.4 These devices must accept any
interference caused by other operations, which further limits a station’s effective
service range. One Part 15 service used for community broadcasting is called carrier
Title 47 Code of Federal Regulations Sections 15.239. Part 15 devices also include cordless
phones, garage door openers, wireless Internet access, and other low power wireless devices.
Title 47 CFR Sections 15.207, 15.209, 15.219, and 15.221.
current stations, or “campus radio.” A carrier current station consists basically of an
AM radio signal on a specified frequency band injected into a power line. The
effective service range of a carrier current station is approximately 61 meters from the
power line, but a carrier current signal will not pass through a utility transformer,
further limiting the signal’s coverage.5 Approximately 140 U.S. colleges and
universities have carrier current stations. There are other ways of reaching community
groups, such as cable TV channels or the Internet, but those services have relatively
large costs for equipment and subscriptions.
Prior to 1978 the FCC licensed a class of noncommercial radio stations called
Class D stations, limited to 10 watts, to educational institutions. Although no new
Class D stations will be licensed, there are still about 121 of them licensed to schools
mostly in areas of the country where radio spectrum is heavily used, thereby
preventing them from upgrading to full power stations. Class D stations have not
caused significant concerns over interference among full power radio broadcasters.6
The final LPFM rule did not adopt all of the elements proposed in the NPRM.
The FCC rejected the proposal for 1000 watt LPFM stations due to opposition to that
proposal by current broadcasters and some public interest groups. Also, the NPRM
had proposed the suspension of both the second and third adjacent channel protection
requirements. The final rule suspended only the third adjacent channel protection. The
NPRM had also raised the possibility of a commercial LPFM service, but the final rule
adopted only a noncommercial service.
Arguments For and Against the Provision of LPFM
The FCC’s LPFM decision has been met by strong reactions from industry
groups, non-profits, and government officials, either opposing or supporting the
decision. Below is a summary of the main groups and their arguments on the issue.
Groups Opposed to LPFM
Organizations and individuals that are opposed to the establishment of LPFM are
concerned that it will cause interference with existing broadcasters. These groups
include the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), the Corporation for Public
Broadcasting (led by National Public Radio), the Consumer Electronics Association,
and several state legislators. They argue that the FCC decision was hasty and failed
to consider all of the potential technical and economic ramifications for existing radio
47 CFR Sections 15.207 (c), 15.209(a), and 15.221.
According to testimony by David Maxson, of Broadcast Signal Lab, LLP, at the House
Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Telecommunications, Trade, and Consumer
Protection, “the separation requirements for 100 watt LPFM stations are much more
conservative than those which apply to existing class D stations which have been successfully
coexisting with full power stations for many years.”
services. Other opponents of the new rule argue that LPFM will not be able to
provide the services that community groups expect.
Most (but not all) incumbent FM broadcasters oppose the LPFM ruling, arguing
against it based primarily on the possibility of interference with their broadcast signals.
Some incumbents are concerned about potential competition with LPFM stations for
revenue. The National Association of Broadcasters, perhaps the most vocal group
opposing the rule, argues that LPFM service would cause unacceptable levels of
interference to the listening public. The NAB argues that the benefit of LPFM
(fostering an increased diversity of broadcasts) does not outweigh the costs
(interference with existing FM broadcasts and potential threats to their economic
viability), and that there is no demand for LPFM in areas where spectrum is available.
NAB also questions the FCC’s ability to administer the licenses and enforce the
broadcasting regulations on the LPFM stations, stating that more than 1000 new
LPFM stations are expected to be licensed.7 In addition to its lobbying effort, NAB
has also filed suit with a U.S. Appeals court to block the LPFM ruling.
Some incumbent radio stations approve of the FCC’s attempt to encourage
diversity on the airwaves by introducing LPFM licenses, but have significant concerns
about the FCC’s rules. For example, officials of National Public Radio (NPR) argue
that since there is a debate over whether LPFM will cause interference with
incumbents, the FCC should establish a process for adjudicating potential cases of
interference. The NPR is also concerned that the rules provide inadequate protection
for translators and boosters, and that introducing LPFM licenses would further
undermine the FCC’s ability to grant applications for new translator and booster
licenses. NPR further argues that the FCC’s ruling failed to take into account the
potential impact of LPFM on the future transition of analog radio services to digital
audio broadcasting (DAB), and that further analysis is necessary before moving
forward on the LPFM service. In addition, some small local stations are concerned
that LPFM stations would compete with them for funding, potentially diluting their
base of support.
Groups Supporting LPFM
During the FCC’s LPFM proceeding, several community, church, public interest
and civil rights groups presented comments in support of LPFM. Included in these
groups are the National Federation of Community Broadcasters, the Minority Media
and Telecommunications Council,8 the United Church of Christ Office of
The FCC subsequently estimated the number of LPFM stations to be established under its
plan would likely be between 300 and 400.
The Minority Media and Telecommunications Council consists of a group of 24 civil rights
organizations: African American Media Incubator, Black College Communication
Associations, Cleveland Talk Radio training Consortium, Cultural Environment Movement,
Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, League of United Latin American Citizens, Media
Action Network for Asian Americans, Minority Business Enterprise Legal Defense and
Education Fund, Inc., Minority Media and Telecommunications Council, National Asian
American Telecommunications Association, National Association for the Advancement of
Communications,9 and a large number of groups organized within states and local
communities. In August 1999, the FCC’s Local and State Government Advisory
Committee adopted a statement supporting the FCC’s proposal for LPFM service, as
did the National League of Cities. Other groups supporting the FCC’s decision
include the Media Access Project (an advocate for the public interest in media
services), the AFL-CIO (the largest U.S. labor union), U.S. Catholic Conference, and
many colleges, churches, and minority- and community-based groups that are less
organized than the industries opposing the ruling.
These groups argue that LPFM is a relatively inexpensive medium to operate and
is well-suited to cover community issues and local culture. They argue that the local
character of radio has been weakened by the consolidation of ownership resulting
from the 1996 Telecommunications Act, and that the number of independent local
voices has dropped sharply, with most of those lost to broadcasting being small,
locally-based and minority broadcasters.10 They believe that by providing increased
competition in voices and content choices, LPFM will help to serve the public better
by providing significantly greater opportunities for citizen involvement in
broadcasting. They also argue that the interference claims of existing broadcasters
are exaggerated, and that the FCC’s final rule is conservative in terms of the small
power approved (10 watt and 100 watt), and the retention of the second adjacent
The majority of the five FCC Commissioners voted in favor of the LPFM ruling
(one Commissioner voting against the ruling and one dissenting in part). FCC
Chairman Kennard, and Commissioners Ness and Tristani, supported the ruling,
stating that it will help minorities, women, and local communities to gain more
representation in mass media.
Chairman Kennard stated that the 1996
Telecommunication Act, which allows one radio chain to own multiple stations in the
same city, had caused consolidation in the broadcast industry, and that since 1996,
nearly 1000 smaller stations had been bought by larger chains, reducing the
opportunities for new entrants. He argued that LPFM will use the broadcast
Colored People, National Association of Black Journalists, National Bar Association,
National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, National Hispanic Media Coalition, National
Indian Telecommunication Institute, National Latino Telecommunication Taskforce, Native
American Journalists Association, Project on Media Ownership, Puerto Rican Legal Defense
& Education Fund, Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, San Diego Community Broadcasting School,
Telecommunication Research and Action Center, and Women’s Institute for Freedom of the
Groups that signed on comments were: National Council of the Churches of Christ,
Communications Commission; General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist
Church; Department for Communications of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America;
Civil Rights Forum; Libraries for the Future; Black Citizens for a Fair Media; and Consumer
Comments of the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council to the FCC, submitted
August 3, 1999. p. 7.
spectrum more efficiently to provide an opportunity for greater diversity of
Commissioner Powell, while agreeing that consolidation in the broadcasting
industry has limited the opportunities for localized interests, dissented in part. He
argued that many of the existing small and independent stations across the country
could be threatened by increased competition for funding, as well as signal
interference by LPFM stations. To mitigate these concerns, he suggested providing
LPFM licenses in selected communities first, and retaining the third channel adjacency
protection for full power stations to minimize the risk of interference. After evaluating
the economic impacts in those markets, the FCC could decide whether to move to full
service with less adjacency protection.
Commissioner Furchtgott-Roth dissented, stating that he was not opposed to the
creation of a low power radio service, but believed that the suspension of third
adjacent channel protections for LPFM stations would create interference for listeners
of existing stations. He argued that the FCC rules may not allow 100 watt LPFM
licenses in some cities where the airwaves are most congested (10 watt stations would
be allowed in all cities). He also believed there is no evidence of economic viability
for LPFM stations in other areas, given that there is little existing demand for
additional full power stations in those markets.
The main technology question under debate is whether LPFM broadcasts will
cause any significant interference with existing FM signals. During the LPFM
proceeding, the FCC conducted tests of LPFM signal transmissions to determine the
impact of LPFM on full power FM broadcasts for various types of radio receivers.
The FCC’s engineering report concluded that LPFM signals would not cause
interference with the signals of full power FM stations within their service areas.11 In
addition to the FCC study, three other technical studies of FM receivers were
conducted. Those studies were submitted with recommendations to the FCC by the
NAB, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA, together with NPR and the
Corporation for Public Broadcasting), and the National Lawyers Guild (a public
interest advocacy group).
The studies examined various types of consumer radios including automobile
radios, component tuners or receivers, portable radios (e.g., “boom boxes”), personal
radios (e.g., “Walkman” units), and clock radios. While there is no official standard
for how much interference to existing licensees is acceptable, a commonly used
measurement of audio quality is signal-to-noise ratio (S/N) of the received signal. A
higher S/N indicates better audio quality, and a lower S/N means the output will
sound noisier.12 Another common way to compare interference levels is by measuring
distortion of the received signal (i.e., the change in the waveform of the signal output
Second and Third Adjacent Channel Interference Study of FM Broadcast Receivers,
Technical Research, Laboratory Division, Office of Engineering and Technology, FCC, July
S/N ratios are measured in decibels (dB), a logarithmic expression of ratios.
compared to the input), which was used in the FCC’s study. While methodologies
differed among the tests, the measurements were consistent.
In all of the tests, portable, personal, and clock radios were more susceptible to
interference than other radio types. However, because the standards for acceptable
interference used by the NAB and CEA/NPR were much higher than those used by
the FCC and NLG, and because different samples of radios were used in each test, a
greater percentage of radios tested by the NAB and CEA/NPR failed to meet
interference criteria compared to the FCC’s and NLG’s tests. The CEA argues that
many of the 700 million radios in use today, as well as radios built in the future, will
have a decreased ability to receive existing broadcasts as a result of the presence of
LPFM signals. The FCC claims that the S/N standards for interference used by NAB
and CEA were inappropriate because “most radios do not perform to these levels,
even in the absence of any interference...”13 Critics of the NAB and NPR positions
argue that while they use the interference issue as their argument against LPFM, their
real concern is that LPFM stations will present competition to full power stations.
A second technical issue is whether LPFM will impede the ability of existing
radio stations to make the transition to digital transmission capabilities. The FCC and
the radio industry are planning to convert U.S. terrestrial broadcasting to a more
efficient digital transmission system called digital audio broadcasting (DAB). One of
the FCC’s proposals in its DAB proceeding is to allow radio stations to use a system
that enables broadcasts of both the new digital signal and the existing analog signal
simultaneously on the same channel, a system referred to as In-Band-On-Channel
(IBOC). Some broadcasters question whether IBOC systems would be more
susceptible to interference than the analog broadcasts alone, and argue that
investigation is necessary before proceeding with LPFM.
The NAB has been distributing a compact disc (CD) to congressional offices and
other groups that purports to demonstrate the type of interference to existing radio
stations that will occur from LPFM stations. The Chief of the FCC’s Office of
Engineering and Technology has stated that “the CD demonstration is misleading and
is simply wrong.”14
Will LPFM stations be cost efficient or will they place a financial burden on
existing broadcasters? The U.S. radio broadcasting industry has experienced an
unprecedented wave of consolidation and mergers since passage of the 1996
Telecommunication Act.15 The consolidation trend has raised barriers (namely, size
Testimony by Bruce Franca, Deputy Chief of FCC Office of Engineering and Technology,
at hearing by the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications, Trade, and Consumer
Protection, February 17, 2000.
Statement of Dale Hatfield, Chief, Office of Engineering and Technology, and Roy Stewart,
Chief, Mass Media Bureau concerning LPFM Engineering Issues, March 24, 2000.
and costs) for new broadcasters. Advocates argue that LPFM will have few operating
requirements, thus allowing new entrants into broadcasting activities at reduced rates.
If LPFM licensees are able to gain the support of dedicated and capable volunteers,
operating costs could be kept at a minimum, and they will not require a large amount
of funding to remain in existence. However, some broadcasters in small market areas
fear that these stations will siphon some of their funding. Some commercial stations
fear that some of their advertising support could shift to one or more LPFM stations
in the form of underwriting, to the extent that audiences migrate to LPFM.
Another question that has not been addressed extensively in the debate is
whether LPFM stations will be able to maintain a reliable service. The process of
creating original audio programming every day, could prove to be a daunting
challenge for small volunteer-based groups.16 Experienced broadcasters understand
the importance of having a reliable, quality programming content in order to maintain
a consistent audience over time.
The following events have occurred in Congress related to the FCC’s LPFM
On March 16, 1999, 25 Members of the House of Representatives
signed a letter to the FCC in support of LPFM.
On November 17, 1999, Representative Oxley introduced the Radio
Broadcasting Preservation Act of 1999 (H.R. 3439) to prohibit the
FCC from establishing rules authorizing the operation of new, low
power FM radio stations.
On February 10, 2000, Senator Gregg introduced an identical
companion bill (S. 2068) which currently has 35 co-sponsors.
On February 17, the House Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on
Telecommunications, Trade, and Consumer Protection, held a
hearing on LPFM. Witnesses testified for and against LPFM, and
Representative Bonior, submitted a statement in support of LPFM.
On March 23, the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications,
Trade, and Consumer Protection approved H.R. 3439 without
amendment, by voice vote.
On March 29, at the House Commerce Committee mark-up, an
amendment in the nature of a substitute, offered by Representatives
Wilson and Dingell, was agreed to by voice vote. Changes made by
the amendment include requiring LPFM stations to meet third
adjacent channel protections for existing FM stations, requiring
[http://www.biacompanies.com]), between 1995 and 1998, the number of radio station owners
decreased 18.8% from 5,222 to 4,241.
LPFM stations will have the same operating hour requirements as full power
noncommercial FM stations. Those include operating at least 36 hours per week, and at least
five hours per day and six days per week.
congressional authority for future changes to these protections,
mandating that the FCC conduct a pilot program administered by an
independent testing entity to test whether LPFM stations will result
in harmful interference to existing FM stations if third channel
protections are not in place, and requiring the FCC to report its
findings to Congress by February 1, 2001. The Committee, by voice
vote, ordered the amended bill to be reported.
On March 29, upon the House Commerce Committee’s action, FCC
Chairman Kennard estimated that imposing the third adjacent channel
protection requirement would eliminate 75% of the potential LPFM
licenses that could be issued.
On April 12, the White House issued a Statement of Administration
Policy, opposing H.R. 3439, stating “The Administration strongly
opposes House passage of H.R. 3439 ... which would restrict the
ability of the FCC to license community-oriented, non-commercial,
low-power FM radio service.” A Clinton aide said that a veto of the
legislation, as written, is likely.
On April 14, the House passed (274-110) H.R. 3439 without further
amendment. It is estimated that the legislation would have the effect
of reducing the number of LPFM stations from approximately 300400 down to 70. The legislation would also require the FCC to
conduct field tests of the LPFM service to determine if the third
adjacent channel protection can be dropped without interference
problems The bill requires the FCC to report its findings to Congress
by February 21, 2001.
On May 8, Senator McCain introduced S. 2518, to ensure the
integrity of the FM radio band while permitting the introduction of
LPFM licenses. The bill would appoint the National Academy of
Sciences to determine whether an LPFM station is causing harmful
interference to full power broadcasters, and enable the full power
station to sue that LPFM station in federal court. It would require
the FCC to complete all rulemakings to implement the transition to
digital audio broadcasting by June 1, 2001.
On July 27, Senator McCain introduced S. 2989 (a modified version
of S. 2518), which would require any LPFM licensee determined by
the FCC to be transmitting a signal causing harmful interference to
licensed radio services to cease such transmission and to refrain from
recommencing its signal until it has taken FCC-prescribed action to
eliminate such interference. The FCC may assign complaint costs to
the losing party and punitive damages for frivolous complaints.
On September 7, Senator Grams introduced S. 3020, which is
identical to the House-passed version of H.R. 3439. The bill
currently has 25 co-sponsors.
On October 4, Senator McCain sent a letter to Senators Lott and
Stevens objecting to the possibility that “the Appropriations
Committee might include language that would significantly restrict
the licensing of LPFM radio stations.”
In an October 6 Statement of Administration Policy regarding the FY
2001 Appropriations bill for Departments of Commerce, Justice,
State, the Judiciary, and Related Agencies (H.R. 4690), the White
House stated that “...we understand there may be an amendment that
would hinder FCC from approving low power broadcasting by
community groups. We do not believe such amendments should be
added to this bill.”
On October 26, H.R. 4690 passed Congress, and was sent to the
White House on October 27. The bill was withdrawn when a veto
was indicated by the President.
The provision was again included in the District of Columbia
Appropriations bill (H.R. 5547), which was incorporated in the
Commerce, Justice, and State Appropriations bill (H.R. 4942) that
passed Congress on December 15, 2000 (Conf. Rept. 106-1005), and
signed into law (P.L.106-553) on December 21, 2000.
FCC Licensing Activity
While the LPFM legislation was moving through Congress, the FCC began the
preliminary steps toward issuing LPFM licenses without granting any licenses. On
March 27, the FCC conducted a lottery to determine the order in which it will accept
applications for LPFM licenses. The lottery determined applicants from the following
states to be accepted by the end of May: Alaska, California, the District of Columbia,
Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Mariana Islands, Maryland, Oklahoma, Rhode
Island, and Utah. Applications from four other groups of states would be accepted
in staggered dates over the course of the next year. Instructions for filing application
for construction permits for LPFM stations and an LPFM applicant’s guide are posted
on the FCC’s web site at [http://www.fcc.gov/mmb/prd/lpfm/]. On April 28, the FCC
announced that it would accept applications for the 100-watt (maximum power)
LPFM stations from May 30 to June 5, 2000 (extended to June 8), from groups
located in the first group of states/territories. The FCC also developed a LPFM
Channel Finder software program (available on the FCC’s website) to help applicants
determine whether there are available LPFM channels in their local area.
On July 28, the FCC announced the filing window for 100-watt LPFM
construction permits from the next group of states/territories to be from August 28September 1, 2000. On September 15, the FCC announced that it had received 473
LPFM applications from non-profit community-based organizations and state and
local governments in the second filing window.
On September 28, the FCC released its decision to affirm its order creating
LPFM radio service, created a procedure to expeditiously resolve complaints from
listeners of full power radio stations claiming unexpected interference from LPFM
stations, and provided additional protection for those stations providing radio reading
services for blind or low vision listeners.17
Memorandum Opinion and Order on Reconsideration, in the Matter of Creation of Low
Power Radio Service, MM Docket 99-25, released September 28, 2000.
On December 15, the FCC announced that it would accept its third round of
LPFM applicants from January 16-22, 2001 from American Samoa, Colorado,
Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Missouri, New York, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota,
On December 21, the FCC announced that 255 noncommercial educational
applicants in 20 states are eligible for LPFM licenses. Applicants could begin receiving
construction permits for their new LPFM stations after 30 days. Additional eligible
applicants from these twenty states, whose applications conflict with other
applications filed in the same geographic area, will be announced at a later date.
Pursuant to the LPFM provisions in the FY2001 Appropriations, applicants are only
eligible for LPFM licenses if the stations proposed in their applications fully protect
full service FM and FM translator stations authorized on third-adjacent channels. In
addition, pursuant to the legislation, eligible applicants must not have engaged in the
unlicensed operation of any broadcast station.