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Federal Communications Commission
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Washington, D.C. 20554
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This is an unofficial announcement of Commission action. Release of the full text of a Commission order constitutes official action. See MCI v. FCC. 515 F 2d 385 (D.C. Circ 1974).

Report No. MM 99-1 MASS MEDIA ACTION January 28, 1999

(MM Docket 99-25)

The FCC today proposed to license new 1000 watt and 100 watt low power FM (LPFM) radio stations, and sought comment on also establishing a third "microradio" class at power levels from 1-10 watts.

In a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking adopted today, the Commission said its goals are to provide new opportunities for community-oriented radio broadcasting, foster opportunities for new radio broadcast ownership and promote additional diversity in radio voices and program services, while protecting the integrity of the spectrum. It said that new LPFM stations could provide a low-cost means of serving urban communities and neighborhoods, as well as populations living in smaller towns and communities. It said it had received over 13,000 inquires in the last year from individuals and groups showing an interest in starting a low power radio station.

The Commission said it was proposing a number of interference protection criteria that would help to insure that any new low power FM radio service would protect existing radio services and preserve the technical integrity of radio service today which has been fostered and maintained by existing FCC rules.

It proposed minimum distance separations between LPFM stations as the best practical means of preventing interference between low power radio and full power FM stations. It said it would require co-channel (or same channel) and lst adjacent channel protections, but felt that 3rd adjacent channel and possibly 2nd adjacent channel protection would not be necessary in view of the low power levels and other factors. It specifically asked for comments on any potential adverse effects from LPFM stations on future digital radio developments, particularly In Band on Channel systems.

The Commission said the proposed new services could meet a variety of local needs and capabilities from broad community coverage to smaller neighborhood areas. It proposed one service with primary frequency usage status to operate at a maximum effective radiated power and antenna height of 1000 watts and 60 meters which would produce a service area with a radius of about 8.8 miles. It proposed another service with secondary use status to operate at maximums of 100 watts and 30 meters with a service radius out to 3.5 miles. It also asked for comments on a 1-10 watt microradio class of stations with an antenna height of 30 meters with a service radius of one to two miles.

The Commission proposed to require the LP 1000 watt class of stations to follow most or all of the rules applicable to full-power broadcasters. It asked for comments on its inclination not to apply most radio station service rules to new LP100 and 1-10 watt microradio stations in view of the smaller size of the operations and secondary status of these services. It stated that it was proposing to not permit any LPFM station to operate as a translator station retransmitting the programming of a full-power station.

The Commission asked for comment on whether LPFM stations would need to generate revenue from advertising or underwriting, and whether the population in these service areas could sustain an advertising base. Alternatively, it asked for comment on whether these LPFM stations should be strictly noncommercial and whether educational institutions are the best potential LPFM licensees.

Because of the increased opportunity for new entry and diversity from LPFM stations, the Commission proposed to apply strict ownership restrictions by not permitting existing broadcasters to own or have any joint sales or marketing agreements with an LPFM station and by prohibiting anyone from owning more than one LPFM station in the same community. It asked for comment on whether a limit of five or ten stations nationally would provide a reasonable opportunity to attain efficiencies of operation while preserving the availability of these stations to a wide range of new applicants.

The Commission proposed an electronic filing system, with short windows of only a few days each for the filing of applications, but asked for comment on whether longer windows or a first-come, first served procedure would be preferable. It said that mutually exclusive applications would have to be resolved by auctions. However, it asked for comments on the best means to fulfill the statutory obligation to explore other means to avoid mutual exclusivity prior to ordering competitive bidding for the LPFM station authorizations.

Action by the Commission January 28, 1999, by Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FCC 99-6). Chairman Kennard, Commissioners Ness, Powell and Tristani, with Commissioner Furchtgott-Roth dissenting; Chairman Kennard and Commissioner Tristani issuing a joint statement, and Commissioners Ness, Furchtgott-Roth and Powell issuing separate statements.

- FCC -

News Media Contact: David Fiske (202) 418-0513
Mass Media Bureau Contact: Keith Larson (202) 418-2600; Bruce Romano, Paul Gordan (202) 418-2120