A closer look at the LPFM proceeding


The FCC did an analysis of frequency availabilities under the new adjacency protection standards established by the Local Community Radio Act, to get a quick idea of what sort of opportunity is available for the grant of new LPFM stations and translators. In some markets, they didn’t find much obvious room for either. Let’s take a look.

For starters, the FCC took into consideration the top 150 Arbitron radio markets. It proposes and seeks comment on LPFM grant floors based on market size. In markets 1-20, it suggest eight LPFM license grants; seven for markets 21-50; six for 51-100; and five for 101-150.

It takes into account that the same FM channel could be used for more than one LPFM and meet minimum LPFM to LPFM separation requirements, so in a market where there might be only 12 open channels that meet separation requirements from full power stations, there may in fact be 16 opportunities to shoehorn in LPFMs, is transmitter sites are available and properly spaced.

The FCC created a grid for each market to determine roughly what the channel availability situation might be. It openly stated that the study was not intended to be the final word on anything specific – it is a way to get a ballpark figure on market-by-market availabilities.

In markets where it appears there is room only for the floor amount of LPFMs or less, it proposes to dismiss all pending FM translator applications. In markets where there is room for the floor number of LPFMs, plus change, it proposes to start processing all pending FM translator applications.

As an example, the New York market was determined to have no obvious frequency gaps – that would mean curtains for 183 FM translator applications, and we believe a challenging space-hunting task for any would-be Big Apple LPFM operator.

None of the top 23 markets in the study, from New York to Portland OR, would be amenable to a new translator. The largest new home for such a station would be #24 Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill.

There is a much better chance for translator applicants from market 50 and smaller, but it is still very much a market-by-market thing.

The FCC market study can be seen here.