The Federal Emergency Management Agency, via the Federal Communications Commission, often has not had the best communications channels broadcasters when it comes to promulgating the yearly national Emergency Alert System (EAS) tests and updated EAS requirements. While commercial broadcasters usually have legal representatives providing them with updates, non-commercial and low power broadcasters hear about these things word-of-mouth.
Reply comments concerning rulemaking, MB Docket Nos. 19-193, 17-105, "Amendments of Parts 73 and 74 to Improve the LPFM Radio Service Technical Rules" just concluded November 4, 2019. What is seen as a positive development, the FCC has provided a rulemaking to fix some of the small technical rules concerning Low Power broadcasting. Common Frequency applauds the Commission offering this opportunity. However, there is some lingering malaise concerning the state of LPFM which hangs over LP operators and advocates. First, there is a feeling of helplessness that the Commission disregards its obligations associated with the Local Community Radio Act, which has lead to a give-away of spectrum in places that should have been reserved for LPFM service under the law. Places like Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma has seen seen all of its secondary service spectrum allotted to translator service when a part was supposed to be reserved for LPFM use. Second, concerning this latest rulemaking, the impetus for this proceeding was Rec Network's Petition for Rulemaking RM-11810 and RM-11749 which proposed a power upgrade for LPFM service. The avoided subject matter is that these issues are intertwined with the current political environment. A Republican Commission is traditionally more subservient to the concerns of business lobbyists versus public interest measures. This has created an impasse on the subject of a 250 watt upgrade for LPFM (or "LP-250").
Bustos Media LLC from Portland, Oregon is the archetype of a commercial minority broadcaster success story. Amador Bustos immigrated to the United States, received degrees from UC Berkeley, served on the Redwood City School board, and formed Bustos Media in Sacramento, California in the early 2000’s. After a first network of stations was sold off, another chain of Spanish-language stations was established in Washington and Oregon headquartered in Portland. The outfit also runs two Russian-language format under local management agreements. Bustos carving out a market for minority-run commercial outfit for foreign-language programming is a laudable endeavor.
Modesto, California Radio Listener Challenges iHeartRadio Over New FM Translator Within Reconsideration
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 new rules for FM translator interference remediation within a report and order on May 9, 2019. This is from a culmination of the broadcast industry, public interest advocates, and members of the public sparring over differences in opinion over protection of full service FM stations and Low Power FM stations in relation to newly-licensed FM translators.