In November 2018 Capstar TX, LLC, a division of iHeartRadio, filed for a new cross service 250-watt FM translator for 107.5 FM for AM station KFIV, Power Talk 1360, “The Valley’s Political Talk Headquarters”. Justin Howze, a Modesto radio listener, filed a Petition to Deny November 18, 2019 citing that the applicant was required to provide a showing that it complied with the Local Community Radio Act of 2010 (LCRA). Howze points to interpretations the Commission made on how to enact LCRA in relation to how to apportion spectrum for LPFM and FM translators, derived in past rulemakings -- LPFM Fifth Order/Sixth Report and LPFM Fourth Report and Order. The take-home is Howze points to inconsistencies and self-conflict concerning the FCC’s rationale of granting spectrum to translators several-fold compared to LPFM. The Commission’s own legal precedent interpretation requires the FCC to conserve spectrum for both services upon opening licensing opportunities. Howze points to the licensing imbalance in Modesto, where over ten translators can be heard and possibly two, or at most three LPFM stations in the area. He believes, thus, the spectrum applied for by Capstar is the last viable spectrum for LPFM, and under the LCRA, that spectrum must be reserved for LPFM. Howze cites the lack of limiting factors to conserve LPFM channels per LCRA within the cross-service FM translator application window, and that in the past, translator applicants were required to submit preclusion demonstrations to show the translator did not encroach on LPFM licensing opportunities.
The FCC released a letter decision rejecting Howze’s argument. While the Commission believed that Howze had standing to file a petition, the FCC believed the filing restrictions associated with the AM Revitalization cross-service translator filing window provided apposite LCRA compliance.
The immediate issue with the FCC’s decision was there was no contemplation of LCRA within the formation of rules associated with the cross-service translator filing window. Furthermore, the “limiting” factors the FCC provides in response were derived after the fact; they would also appear to have no bearing on LPFM spectrum conservation. The FCC also does not rely on any filing evidence to demonstrate their case.
This lead to Howze appealing the issue via Petition for Reconsideration. What ensued was a take-down of the Commission’s reasoning. This was followed a potent Reply. While it is unknown how, or when, the Commission may respond, the response is likely to take years so it will not rock the boat with translator-licensing status quo.