Current Issues

Updated March 7, 2018

Here are issues that REC is currently following as well as any notes and opinions regarding these proceedings.

MB Docket: 17-289 (07-294, 09-182, 14-50, 04-256) Broadcast "incubator" program (OPEN PROCEEDING)

The FCC describes the "incubator" program as "an important step in helping to promote ownership diversity in the broadcasting industry.  Such a program would seek to encourage new and diverse broadcast station owners by drawing on the technical expertise and/or financial assitance of existing broadcasters." 

The Incubator Program could provide an ownership rule waiver for a certain class of prospective or existing station owners. For example, in exchange for a defined benefit such as a broadcast ownership rule, an established company could assist a new onwer by providing mangement or technical assistance, loan guarantees, direct financial assistance through loans or equity investments, training or business planning assistance.  In the NPRM, the FCC is seeking comments on defining the entities eligible for participation in the Incubator Program such as new entrants, revenue-based eligible entities, socially and economically disadvantaged businesses and "overcoming disadvantages preference".  The Commission is seeking comments on what kind of activities would qualify for incubation such as the activities already mentioned or other activities such as donating stations to certain organizations or allowing others to sell advertising under an LMA and what benefits should be given to stations that are incubating such as waivers of ownership rules.  

REC can't see how this proposal is going to help female, minority and LGBT-owned entities as well as non-profit organizations and other community-based organizations are going to obtain stations to serve their communities and add diversity to the airwaves in both the local and national perspective.  From what we can see in the NPRM, this proposal is nothing more than a way for large owners to skirt the local ownership rules by running an "incubating" station as a "training ground" which will bring up issues of whether the entities they are "training" are really disinterested (from a financial perspective).  The only true way to bring additional broadcast diversity is to strengthen ownership limits and force the breakup of clusters in favor of more local voices.  In her vociferous dessent, Commissioner Mignon L. Clyburn suggests that this policy would harm localism, diversity and competition.  REC agrees with Commissioner Clyburn.  This is yet another loophole that benefits iHeart and Cumulus and does nothing for the diversity of voices, especially for female, minority and LGBT-owned locally-based entities.  To Clyburn, with this NPRM, the FCC has abdicated its repsonsibility to uphold the core values of localism, competition and diversity in broadcasting and hopes that if passed, it's reversed in the courts.  REC agrees with Clyburn's assessment of this NPRM.  It's a meal ticket to the NAB and big broadcasters in the disguise of a training program.


Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (starts at paragraph 126)

RM-11727 : Class C4 & §73.215 changes

Petition by SSR Communications to create a new Class C4 FM broadcast service.  This would be an upgrade path from Class A FM stations.  Service contour greater than 28.3 km and less than 33.3 km.  Service would only be available in FM Zone 2 (where C3, C2, C1 C0 and C is already available).  This petition also calls for changes to §73.215 where larger full-power stations (mainly Class C) had never operated their stations at full facilities would be protected at their current facility parameters instead of at the maximum facility parameter for their station class.

C4 may create additional incoming interference to LPFM stations on the fringes of upgraded stations.  Most LPFM stations will not feel the impact due to the spacing of LPFM stations to full service stations (overprotection due to the buffer zone).  A fairly low number of Class A stations will be able to or want to upgrade.  REC is working to assure that LPFM stations are not precluded from moves in a manner consistent with the LCRA.  REC estimates that just over 200 Class A stations could upgrade to C4 however many Class A stations are currently running with substantially small service contours for a variety of reasons such as their community need does not dictate a larger facility and international protection.  The §73.215 change would allow the proponent of a C4 (or any other service class) that is short spaced under §73.207 but properly spaced under §73.215 to request an "Order to Show Cause" as to why the short-spaced full-service station (mainly Class C stations) should not be protected to their full facility even though their actual facility is lower.  While REC has not performed any studies on this, the proponent of the change is claming that up to 700 stations could potentially upgrade causing even more issues and potential displacements of LPFM stations.  The §73.215 downgrade part of this proposal does not provide any fringe benefit to LPFM since it does not result in a change to the station class of the "downgraded" station.  This is different than current policy that permits a Class C station operating at less than 450 meters HAAT to be downgraded to C0. 

REC cautiously supports the C4 class portion of this petition if it is accompanied by by several rule and policy changes (including a reinterpretation of the LCRA) to afford LPFM stations maximum flexibility in the event of increased noise floor.  REC opposes Class C4 in Zone I (not part of the original petition).  REC has serious reservations of the §73.215 aspect of this proposal as this could increase the number of C4 eligible situations.  We hope that these estimates are offset by Class A stations not desiring to change sites or install directional antennas.  Upgraded Class C4 stations will still be required to provide community of license coverage even if they are directional. 

This item is currently on circulation before the Commissioners and if approved with at least three up-votes will be placed on a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking or Notice of Inquiry.

RM-11749 : REC LP-250 Proposal

Proposed to create a new class of service to allow many LPFM stations to upgrade from a 5.6 km service contour to a 7.1 km service contour by operating at a power equivilent to 250 watts at 30 meters height above average terrain.  Updates to the Petition through Reply Comments and in MB Docket 17-105 suggested a "hybrid" method of protection using a combination of minimum distance separation and contour overlap in a manner that is consistent with the LCRA.  Allow LPFM stations that meet certain qualifications to upgrade automatically and notify the FCC if they made the upgrade.  Increase the distance LPFM stations are allowed to change on a minor move.  New provisions in the assignment and transfer rules to address "failing" LPFM stations.

A considerable number of LPFM stations would be able to upgrade on their current channel while many others would be able to upgrade wiht a channel change.  Some upgrades may require new antennas or other methods to protect second adjacent channel stations.  The change to minor moves would bring the policy to a manner consistent with FM translators and without the need for wavier requests.  The "hybrid" method proposed will open up new opportunities for new stations in a future filing window.

RM-11753 : LPFM.AG Proposal

Proposed various changes to the LPFM service including the ability to operate commercially, have full parity between LPFM and FM translator technical rules, primary status for LPFM, changes to assignments and transfers, ownership caps and removing the "-LP" from call signs.

Since the original 1999 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, commercial LPFM operations have been opposed from a wide range of organizations and other entities.  The Commission has already denied an attempt to introduce commercial LPFM in an Order on Reconsideration.  Due to numerous statutes that can't be waived by the FCC specifically for LPFM, commercial LPFM would not be possible without the necessity of using competitive bidding (auctions) to resolve mutual exclusitivity as well as the payments of filing fees and annual regulatory fees.  Statutes would put our "one to a customer" ownership limits into jeopardy.  In addition, Commercial stations may be required to pay higher music licensing fees through ASCAP, BMI, SECAC and SoundExchange.  The GMR "$1 per year" rate would not apply. Implementing full translator rules in LPFM would violate Section 3(a) of the LCRA.  Primary status violates Section 5(3) of the LCRA and would subject LPFM stations to evaluations under Section 307(b) of the rules to assure fair, efficent and equitable distribution of licenses among the states and communities thus meaning that the FCC may deny a license if there's too many stations in a particular area.  LPFM stations would need to demonstrate why their city of license would need a new allotment.  Moves would be scruitinized and moves from rural to urbanized areas would be prohibited under the Rural Radio decision.  

While REC would like to see LPFM stations use every opportunity to obtain funding through the use of commercial advertising, the current legislative environment that all broadcast services operate under is not conducive to the small organization and local nature of LPFM.  Under a commecial regime, LPFM stations will pay far greater fees for music licensing, taxes as well as fees to the FCC they never had to pay before.  While primary service is desirable for LPFM, current statute prohibits it and the FCC cannot waive it.  REC does agree that there needs to be some changes in the handling of assignments and transfers as well as the elimination of the requirement that LPFM stations have an "LP" suffix in their call sign.  The aspects of RM-11753 that REC agrees with are in our comments in MB Docket 17-105.

RM-11779 : AM synchronous boosters

Petition by WAPA(AM) to codify on-channel AM boosters.  WAPA had been running these boosters on experimental authorizations.

Does not directly impact LPFM and not likely to reduce the demand for cross-service FM translators to rebroadcast AM stations.

REC takes a supportive position on this proceeding as it could improve in-band AM reception.

RM-11786 : Aztec Fill-In Translator Protection Proposal

Aztec Capital Partners, Inc. petition for rulemaking to afford a level of "priority" to FM translators providing a fill-in AM or FM service in respect to inteference to distant full-service FM stations.

LPFM stations would be prevented from opposing the grants of new or modified translators where the LPFM station has listeners in the 1 mV/m service contour of the translator if that translator was being used to rebroadcast an AM or HD-2 station.  The FCC has already made a letter decision that any preferential treatment to a new translator over an existing LPFM service violates the "equal in status" clause of LCRA Section 5(3).

REC opposes this petition.

RM-11787 : Improve the Translator Interference Complaint Process

NAB petition to permit FM translators to move to any channel as a minor change.  Currently translators are only allowed to make changes to first, second, third or IF adjacent channels unless there is a "trigger" event by a full-service station that would result in displacement.  In contrast, LPFM rules permit changes to "any channel" upon a showing of reduced incoming or outgoing interference.

Removes the "predictability" that translators can only change to certain channels.  At the same time, it puts translators on a more level playing field with LPFM stations.

REC feels that this is a reasonable petition as it will being LPFM and FM translators on a more level playing field.

MB Docket 17-264 : Public Notice of the Filing of Broadacst Applications/TV Station Ancilliary and Supplementary Services Reporting

This is a proceeding that has spawned from 17-105 that address two issues.  First it eliminates a report that is filed by full service TV stations regarding the use of their signal for non-broadcast supplemental services such as datacasting.  Under the proposed rules, only the stations that engage in supplemental services would need to submit reports as they do pay fees on the revenues from provision of those services.  This proceeding also proposes to allow full-service, FM translator and booster applicants to make public notice of certain broadcast applications to be disclosed over the internet in lieu of local newspapers.  The NPRM also seeks comments on modifying the required on-air public notice announcements (e.g. license renewals) can refer listeners to a website instead of broadcasting the information over the air.  

Requirements for local public notice of filing of broadcast applications including on-air announcements of renewals (§73.3580) does not apply to LPFM stations per §73.801.  Therefore this has no impact on LPFM stations.  Broadcast applications are available for view the next day in the FCC CDBS Public Access system as well as on REC's and will be eventually published in the Broadcast Applications public notice that appears in the daily digest.

REC supports this rulemaking as it removes a burden on full-power stations and translators.