FM translator processing and LPFMs have been inextricably tied together for years, as the services compete for spectrum throughout the country. While the principal conflicts between the two services were, for the most part, resolved last year, it seems that there will always be some ties between the two. At Wednesday's FCC open meeting, this was illustrated by the fact that there were two reports - one on the status of the processing of the remaining applications from the 2003 FM translator window, and another about the preparations for the upcoming LPFM window. The report on translators talked about the almost 2000 translator applications that have been or will be granted this year, and how the 2003 backlog soon will be down to only about 200 applications still mutually exclusive and to be awarded by an auction, The LPFM report talked about the well-attended webinars that have been held by the FCC to educate the public about the possibility of new stations - and the reportedly hundreds of draft applications already partially prepared in the FCC's electronic filing system - even though the filing window does not open for several weeks.
On the translator front. the FCC two weeks ago announced that there will be another 104 “tech box” proposals that are not mutually exclusive with any other translator application from the 2003 FM translator filing window (see the list here). These are on top of the 1700 other applications that were considered to be grantable in two separate lists that came out earlier this year (see our articles about these prior “singleton” groups, here and here). Long-form applications (ones that spell out the details of the applicant's proposals, including information about the applicant’s ownership and specific technical information about where the station will be built) for the 104 newly identified singleton applications are due on October 9. Instructions for filing those applications are available here.
That deadline is just prior to the deadline for LPFM applications. As with other recent translator filings, the long-form applications for these new translators are only protected against interference from new LPFM applications from the coming window to the extent of their coverage on June 11, the date that the LPFM window was announced. Moves made from the sites specified as of June 11 may not have any protection from subsequent LPFM applications. But the new LPFM applications themselves have numerous rules and procedures that they must follow to be found acceptable in the upcoming window.
In fact, the FCC will be holding a second webinar on October 3 to discuss some of the issues faced by LPFM applicants, and to answer questions that these applicants may have about the filing process (see the public notice about that webinar here). The FCC’s own blog recently posted an article from Media Bureau Chief William Lake pointing out some of the potential pitfalls facing LPFM applicants. We wrote about some of those same issues here in connection with the dismissal of several LPFM applications from the last window. Mr. Lake reminds applicants to be sure that they are nonprofit entities in existence at the time of the filing of the application. The blog post also highlights some of the rules for educational institutions, which can file for LPFM stations even if their institution already has a professionally run station, as long as the LPFM station will be student-run. This is an exception to the FCC rule that, in most cases, limits an organization to one LPFM application or license.
So, providing that the government does not shut down on October 1 (see our article here), this month will be a busy one for the FM band – for both translator and LPFM applicants. Be ready with your application, and cover all the necessary legal bases, when the deadline comes!