Memorandum Opinion and Order Opens Weakness in LPFM Rules

Submitted by Todd Urick on Sun, 02/09/2020 - 14:21

Last year, Las Vegas nonprofit Chinese Voice of Golden City, licensee of KQLS-LP Las Vegas, found that the coordinates of its already-built and operating Low Power FM station were a little off from their licensed location.  Within self-review of their facilities, they found that the antenna coordinates were 256 feet off from their licensed coordinates.  With candor, they filed with the FCC to correct the mistake via modification of license form.  Additionally, with due diligence, they filed for an Engineering Special Temporary Authority to continue using their current site.  The Commission did not seem to like that one bit.  Without delay, FCC turned around and handed Golden City a letter of license expiration.  The FCC essentially asserted that since the station was never built in the right location, their license already expired per Section 312(g) of the Communications Act.  Furthermore, pursuant to Section 73.875 (b)(2), LPFM facilities needed to apply for a modification of construction permit to move -- this is not covered via modification of license filing that they filed.

This is a major let-down -- especially since Golden City filed their paperwork via a DC Communications Attorney.  Within a Petition for Reconsideration filed by Golden City, more information was revealed about the prior location(s) of operation of the station.  The station appears as though it was on at another place for a short duration too.  This kind of muddled their case for requesting reconsideration.  Furthermore, a commercial translator applicant dog-piled on top of the whole case.  That filing opposed Golden City's Reconsideration because they wanted the LPFM's frequency to save a translator that needed to move to a new channel.  They asked the FCC to expedite a judgement.  Within two weeks, the FCC issued a Memorandum Opinion and Order denying the appeal so the translator applicant could take the channel for themselves.  

The larger issue here is it has always been assumed that Section 73.1690(c)(11) of the FCC rules -- a rule that allows FM stations 3 seconds latitude and longitude variance in placement of licensed facilities -- also applied to LPFM.  However, it appears that the LPFM rules do not include this rule within the subsections that guides LPFM facility placement.  The question is how accurate does an LPFM permittee need to be when building their facility?  The Commission's Section 73.1690(c)(11) of the rules gives leeway to many facilities that currently are not exactly on the cross-hairs of their licensed coordinates.  Is that same comfort not extended to LPFM?  Or, in the case of applying for a LPFM on a tower with an established FCC Antenna Structure Registration Number, the FCC makes the permittee designate the exact coordinates on the ASRN record.  What if the tower has skewed coordinates from  the tower's actual location?  In this case, the LPFM will also technically be in the wrong location. 

This oversight in the rules needs further clarification or amendment within the LPFM rules