FCC Rules for LPFM

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FCC documents amending LPFM rules

FCC rules are amended through rulemaking proceedings.  First, the FCC issues a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) which outlines the changes they would like to make to the rules and seek comment on those changes.  Once the FCC reviews the comments and reaches a decision, they will issue a Report and Order (R&O) summarizing the comments received, their analysis of those comments and the decision that the FCC reached on how the rule will be changed.  There is also the ability for interested parties to appeal the decision of the FCC.  When the FCC makes a decision on that appeal, it will show as an Order on Reconsideration.  

Document Release Date Description Citation
MM Dkt. 99-25: NPRM 02/03/1999 Proposing the creation of a Low Power Radio Service. 14 FCC Rcd 2471
R&O 01/27/2000 LPFM is created with 10 and 100 watt services. 15 FCC Rcd 2205
MO&O on Reconsideration 09/22/2000 Addressing several Petitions for Reconsideration filed by both LPFM and full-power interests. 15 FCC Rcd 19208
1998 Biennial Reglatory Review-Streamlining of Radio Technical Rules 10/24/2000 Creates new C0 service class.  Establishes LPFM protections to Class C0 stations. 15 FCC Rcd 21649
Second R&O 03/22/2001 Implements Radio Broadcast Protection Act, restricted LPFM from third-adjacent channels 16 FCC Rcd 8026
Second Order on Reconsideration & FNPRM 03/17/2005 Extends distance for minor changes. Proposes various other technical changes. 20 FCC Rcd 6763
Third R&O & Second FNPRM 12/11/2007 Changes to adminstrative and ownership related rules and extension of construction period.  NPRM related to encroachment by full power stations. 22 FCC Rcd 21912
Third FNPRM 07/12/2011 Implementation of Local Community Radio Act section 5. 26 FCC Rcd 9986
Fourth R&O & Third Order on Reconsideration 03/19/2012 Implements the Local Community Radio Act (Section 5), addresses the trafficking of FM translators and permits FM translators to rebroadcast AM stations. 27 FCC Rcd 3364
Fifth R&O, Fourth NPRM, Fourth Order on Reconsideration 03/19/2012 Eliminates the third-adjacent channel spacing requirement.  NPRM to implement section 7 of the LCRA and set the rules for the 2013 LPFM Filing Window. 27 FCC Rcd 3315
Sixth R&O, Fifth Order on Reconsideration 11/30/2012 Implements LPFM rules for the 2013 LPFM Filing Window. 27 FCC Rcd 15402
Sixth Order on Reconsideration 06/30/2013 Addressing various issues raised on reconsideration from the Sixth R&O. 28 FCC Rcd 14489
MB Dkt. 19-3: NPRM 02/14/2019 Proposing various administrative changes to handling MX applications and other changes for a future filing window.  Also proposes changes to assignments, transfers and construction periods. 34 FCC Rcd 851
MB Dkt. 19-193: NPRM 07/30/2019 Proposing various technical rule changes including expanding minor moves, directional antennas for border situations, boosters for LPFM and an across-the-board elimination of Channel 6 TV protection requirements for all broadcast stations in the reserved band. 34 FCC Rcd 6537
MB Dkt. 19-3 Report and Order 12/10/2019 Changes to various administrative rules including MX groups, assignments, transfers, past pirates and construction periods. 34 FCC Rcd 12519
MB Dkt. 19-193 Report and Order 04/23/2020 Changes to technical rules including minor moves, directional antennas, TV channel 6 protection, power increases for Mexico Strip Zone area and boosters for LPFM stations. 35 FCC Rcd 4115

Statutes related directly or indirectly to LPFM

Congress created the Federal Communications Commission in 1932 as a successor to the Federal Radio Commission.  This legislation is known as the Communications Act of 1932 (47 USC).  Over the past 80+ years, the Communications Act has been amended.  These amendments come as a result of acts of Congress.  Unlike FCC rules in Part 73, the FCC has no juristiction to change the Communications Act or to waive provisions of the Communications Act (unless such a waiver is permitted by statute).  If anything, the FCC creates rules/regulation in order to implement the provisions of the Communications Act.   

A non-commercial educational (NCE) station is defined in Section 397(6) of the Communications Act as:
(A) under the rules and regulations of the Commission in effect on November 2, 1978, is eligible to be licensed by the Commission as a noncommercial educational radio or television broadcast station and which is owned and operated by a public agency or nonprofit private foundation, corporation, or association; or
(B) is owned and operated by a municipality and which transmits only noncommercial programs for education purposes.

Here are some selected statues that were passed by Congress.  Unlike the FCC rules, these provisions can not be changed through the FCC rulemaking process:

Local Community Radio Act of 2010 - Signed by President Obama in 2011.

LCRA 2010 Congressional Record - House

LCRA 2010 Congressional Record - Senate 

What rules and policies can't be changed through rulemaking because of statutes.

Other laws of interest

Communications Act - Section 399b (47 USC 399b) - Prohibition of commercials on non-commercial educational broadcast stations.

Communications Act - Section 399a - Use of business names and logograms.  

Radio Broadcast Preservation Act - (Repealed and replaced by the Local Community Radio Act of 2010) - Invokes third adjacent protection to full power FM and FM translator stations. Also adds language that all persons with a "pirate past" are ineligible for LPFM licenses (see Rugierro v. FCC below).  The RBPA was repealed and replaced by the Local Community Radio Act of 2010.  The only aspect of the RBPA that survived was the provisions about "pirate" radio operators.

Balanced Budget Act of 1997 - Title III pertains to communications.  Enacts competitive bidding (auctions) for commercial spectrum uses including AM/FM broadcast.  Exceptions are granted to public safety (e.g. municipal government), non-commercial educational broadcast stations and "companion" channels for television stations to accommodate the transition to digital television.

Telecommunications Act of 1996 - Section 202 lifts the nationwide ownership caps and redefines local radio ownership caps by market. 

Commission States Future Policy on Incomplete and Patently Defective AM and FM Construction Permit Applications - Discusses the "nunc pro tunc" policy where certain minor defects on broadcast applications that caused a dismissal can be reinstated with a one-time opportunity to make a correction.  This policy specifically does not apply to LPFM not meeting §73.807 minimum spacing on new station and major change construction permit applications during a window as those defects are specifically addressed in §73.870(c) as being not curable.  - 56 RR 2d 776 (1984)

Court Decisions

Rugierro v. FCC - US Court of Appeals, DC Circuit declares that the "pirate past" provisions of the Radio Broadcast Protection Act (which states that any pirate activity automatically excludes someone from obtaining an LPFM license) is unconstitutional.   This decision was eventually vacated.  Therefore, those who have a "pirate past" are still prohibited from being a party to an LPFM license.

Other resources

FCC Part 1 - Practice and Procedure
FCC Part 11 - Emergency Alert System
FCC Part 17 - Construction, Marking and Lighting of Antenna Structures
FCC Part 73 - Rules related to Radio and Television
FCC Part 74 - Rules related to FM Translators & Broadcast Auxilliary (remote pickup and STL)

Part 73 - Subpart G - Low Power FM Broadcast Stations

For each Subpart G rule, we will first show a summary which is a more plain English explanation of the rule. (Note: This summary is NOT the actual text of the legal rule and if there's a conflict between the summary and the text of the actual rule, the text of the actual rule prevails.) You will then see the actual text of the rule from the Code of Federal Regulations or as amended by a subsequent Report and Order.

For each rule, we also include the history of that rule by denoting when a rule was changed and what changed.  Text in bold is added text.  Text in strikeout was removed on that change.