Public Notice rule "officially" starts for LPFM on July 20.. but temporarily, under the "old rules".

On Friday, the FCC announced that the rule changes from MB Docket 17-264, which dealt with public notices was published in the Federal Register.  As most of the rule changes require changes to forms and/or information collection, they have been referred to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for their approval in accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act and therefore, will not enacted until later this year. 

Only one rule change will take effect on July 20, 2020.  §73.801 of the rules is mainly a list of rules outside of Subpart G (where the LPFM rules reside) that also apply to LPFM stations.  This rule change makes §73.3580, the section related to broadcast public notices apply to LPFM stations. 

The actual rule changes in §73.3580, that eliminates the requirement to use newspaper advertising for certain situations and changes the format, as well as the frequency of over the air public notice announcements (such as the renewal announcements) is still pending OMB approval.

This means that effective on July 20, 2020 and until the new §73.3580 rule receives OMB approval, the current §73.3580 rule will apply to LPFM stations.  What this will mean for LPFM stations:

  • LPFM stations will now be required under rule to carry the “post-file” renewal announcements per the rules and previous guidance provided by REC and other advocates thus clearing up a grey area in the rules.  The Commission has permanently waived the requirement for broadcast stations of all classes to carry the “pre-file” announcements.
  • LPFM stations requesting an assignment or transfer of a license (except for board changes which are done on Form 316) will be required to make over-the-air announcements to advise of the filing.  LPFM stations that are silent will be required to obtain newspaper advertising in order to meet their public notice requirements.
  • LPFM stations seeking original construction permits for an FM booster station must obtain newspaper advertising.

Please see the current §73.3580 rule for more information on the exact requirements.

Once the changes to §73.3580 are enacted:

  • Public notice announcements for renewals as well as assignments and transfers will continue to be made over the air, but will follow a new schedule where 6 announcements must be made within a 4 week period.
  • Public notice announcements for silent stations can be made on the website of the station’s or the licensee organization’s website.
  • Public notice announcements for original construction permits for FM boosters can be made on the the license organization’s website.
  • For the next filing window, public notice of original construction permit applications may be made on the applicant organization’s website or if the applicant does not have a website, on a publicly accessible site such as a local newspaper, chamber of commerce or state broadcaster association.  Major change applications made by existing LPFM licensees in the next filing window must be disclosed through an over-the-air public notice.

Public notices are required in accordance with Section 311(a) of the Communications Act, a law enacted by Congress in the early 1960s in response to the payola scandal in radio and the rigged quiz show scandal in television.  The Act gives the FCC full latitude on how public notices are delivered and the frequency of that delivery.

The FCC’s proposed information collection changes for the changes to §73.3580 as well as other rule changes, including MB Dockets 19-3 and 19-193, which impact LPFM are currently in a comment period until August 3.  Sometime after that, a notice will be made in the Federal Register to announce the effective date of the new rules.

Related: REC Comments in OMB proceeding in respect to the implementation of the expansion of directional antennas in the LPFM service.

Current 47 CFR §73.3580 public notice rule
47 USC §311 (see paragraph (a))