REC files FCC petition to address NCE access for smaller communities through reverse "Raleigh" waivers.

REC Networks has filed a Petition for Rulemaking, or in the alternate, Petition for Declaratory Ruling with the Federal Communications Commission to address the issue of smaller communities being denied their first broadcast station because of lack of availability caused by higher powered stations centered around larger urbanized areas.

At issue is Section §307(b) of the Communications Act which states "In considering applications for licenses, and modifications and renewals therefo, when and insofar as there is a demand for the same, the Commission shall make such distribution of licenses, frequencies, hours of operation, and of power among the several states and communities as to provide a fair, efficient, and equitable distribution of radio service to each of the same."

Historically, the Commission has shown preference for larger stations serving larger communities.  This has resulted in many communities that are outside of but fairly close to urbanized areas being denied the opportunity to to start their first service because channels are being used by the urbanized areas.  Under current Commission policy, the use of a channel in a one community can make up to 7 channels unavailable in other communities.  In addition, those out of town stations are considered an "educational service" for that community even if that community is not being served in a manner that is more tailored to that community.  In the noncommercial educational (NCE) reserved band, there are only 20 channels available.

Over the past 20 years, the FCC has permitted several operating arrangements that has allowed contour overlap between a higher powered full-service station and a lower powered facility on a second or third adjacent channel.  In some cases, such as the Living Way method that is practiced for FM translators and post-2011 LPFM, the interfering conotur of the smaller station can be inside the protected contour of a larger station under the condition that no population will experience interference.  In other methods such as the Raleigh waiver and displaced LPFM services prior to 2011, second (and third) adjacent channel contour overlap was allowed with minimal population overlap between the interfering contour of one station and the protected contour of the other.  In the Raleigh case, the FCC concluded that unlike co-channel and first-adjacent channel interference, second and third adjacent channel overlap is non-destructive.  In the LPFM Third Report and Order, the Commission addressed the potential for new interference to a full-service station against the loss of an LPFM station.  That policy allowed population inside the overlap.  That specific policy would be eliminated and replaced with a zero-population requirement as a result of the Local Community Radio Act. 

As a result of the outcomes of the various Commission policies over the years as well as the advancements in receiver design, REC is proposing what could be called a "reverse Raleigh waiver".  Under the proposal, applications for new smaller Class A NCE FM stations (service contours of 13 km or less) may be accepted if all of the following conditions apply:

  • A showing must be made that the community qualifies for an allotment under current community of license policies (either listed in the Census Gazetteer or there is a compelling showing that the locality is a  fully functional community as opposed to a roadside rest or other speck on the map).
  • The proposed community of license does not currently have any full-service AM or FM station, commercial or noncommercial attributed to it, thus making it the community's first aural service and the proposed station plans to cover at least 50% of that community (current community coverage policy).
  • The proposed station is located outside of a Top 50 media market county.
  • The coverage contour of the proposed station does not overlap with a U.S. Census Bureau urbanized area. (Urbanized areas are dense areas with a population exceeding 50,000 persons).
  • The applicant organization must be established and local.  The headquarters and at least 75 percent of the board members must reside within 20 miles of the transmitter site.  Cross-ownership with other broadcast services and multiple ownership is prohibited.  Applicants that are currently LPFM must disclose their LPFM station and divest of the license prior to the NCE station going on the air.
  • Applicant must demonstrate that with a Class A minimum facility (100 watts at 30 meters HAAT, 6 km service contour) using a nondirectional antenna, none of the 20 reserved band channels (88.1~91.9) are available at the proposed site.  The applicant must make a further showing that at least one of the stations preventing the ability to apply at the site also places a coverage contour over all or a portion of an Urbanized Area.
  • The applicant must propose a minimum of a Class A facility (100 watts at 30 meters HAAT) and may specify up to a 13 kilometer service contour but no more than 250 watts (250 watts at 107 meters HAAT).  Directional antennas are permitted but must follow the full-service rules (no more than 15 dB minimum to maximum ratio and field values not exceeding 2 dB every 10 degrees). 
  • The proposed facility's 100 dBu interfering contour may overlap the protected service contour of a second or third-adjacent channel facility as long as the populationn count inside the overlapped area does not exceed 0.2% (two tenths of one percent) of the overlapped station's service contour, not to exceed 3,000 persons in any case.  Methods such as U/D ratios and antenna elevation patterns may be used to reduce the population in the overlap area. 
  • NCE stations on co-channel and first-adjacent channel as well as stations operating in the commercial band, foreign broadcast stations and TV channel 6 stations must be protected in accordance with existing rules.

REC proposes this to be a primary service (FM Class A).  By law, overlapped stations would be issued a Order to Show Cause, where they can state why the grant is not in the public interest.  Consistent with the FCC's Raleigh policy, REC proposes that any overlapped station may be able to make any changes on a per se basis (without regard to the new facility) as long as a minimum of a second-adjacent channel relationship is kept.  

REC estimates that this waiver policy would open up the ability for about non-urbanized area 2,000 communities where channels are not available would be given the opportunity to apply despite a lack of channels due to second or third adjacent channel overlap.  

A copy of the submitted petition may be found at this URL:

The FCC has not assigned a rulemaking or docket number to it yet.  Please withold any comments to the FCC until such a time when they put it on public notice. 

Founded in 1984, REC Networks is a leading advocate for a diverse use of spectrum in both broadcast and non-broadcast services with a focus on Low Power FM and other smaller stations.

Media contact:
Michelle Bradley
202 621-2355

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