It’s certainly easy to understand the sentiment expressed by a commenter to my last LPFM post:
If the NAB is for it, you can pretty much guarantee that it is to the detriment to LPFM.
And while the LPFM bill passed by the House yesterday, HR 6533, does contain compromises agreed to by the NAB, on balance it is far more positive for LPFM than negative. I’m certain we have Prometheus Radio Project and other LPFM groups to thank for the positives.
Michelle Eyre of REC Networks did us a favor by breaking down the details of the bill. The primary concession to the National Association of Broadcasters is that while LPFM stations will be permitted to be spaced closer on the dial to full power stations, the would have to obtain a “second adjacent waiver” in order to be positioned as close as two spaces (say at 100.1 when there’s a full-power station at 100.5). In order to obtain this waiver, an LPFM applicant will have to demonstrate through an engineering study that it will cause no interference. And if there is a complaint of interference the LPFM station will have to remediate it, by first suspending operations and then taking technical measures
Other concessions include making LPFM a secondary service to full-power radio, which means that a full-power station can bump a low-power one if a legitimate change to its license would require it. Furthermore, LPFM stations would be on equal footing with translator stations, meaning that an LPFM applicant could not bump a translator using a frequency qualified for LPFM.
Certainly, this is not quite a win for LPFM that a simple restoration of the FCC’s original 2000 specification would be. In particular, applying for LPFM stations in large metropolitan areas with crowded dials will be more complex than the LPFM process has been so far. Those LPFM applicants looking at second-adjacent channels will have to do more work ahead of time to prove they will not interfere with adjacent stations. Furthermore, they will be more prone to objections from those adjacent full-power stations, who may be able to delay or stymie their applications with objections about potential interference.
Now, these sorts of administrative hassles have always been a part of full-power station licensing. For instance, the community station I worked at in Champaign, IL had its application delayed for years due to objections filed by a station on the same frequency more than 120 miles away in Chicago. But these sorts of speedbumps have not existed for LPFM before, which was designed to have a relatively simple and inexpensive application process in order to greatly lower the barrier to entry.
The bill still has not yet come to a vote in the Senate, There could be changes made in the other house of Congress, but I’m doubting supporters would want to mess with things. At least the Senate is finally out of gridlock and bringing bills to a vote this weekend, so there is hope. I’ll be following LPFM’s progress this weekend and will certainly post if and when something happens.