Local Community Radio Act of 2010

The Local Community Radio Act of 2010, also known as HR-6533 was passed in the House of Representatives after 40 minutes of debate, had passed the bill on a voice vote on December 17, 2010.  The bill would pass in the Senate without amendment by unanimous consent and was presented to the President on December 28, 2010.  On January 4, 2011, the LCRA was signed by President Barack Obama and became Public Law No. 111-371.

First, we had the Radio Broadcast Protection Act of 2001

The LCRA replaced a piece of legislation called the Radio Broadcast Protection Act of 2001.  The RBPA was passed at the urging of the National Association of Broadcasters that was concerned over perceived interference by new LPFM stations to the point of where the NAB provided each member of Congress with a compact disc containing simulated interference of what an LPFM station on the third-adjacent channel of a full service station could potentially sound like.   

The RBPA would amend the DC Appropriations Act to add a section 632 which called for:

  • prescribing minimum distance separations for third-adjacent channels (as well as co-, first- and second-adjacent channels) [(a)(1)(A)] and preventing the FCC from reducing or eliminating third-adjacent channel protections [(a)(2)(A)].
  • prevents those with a "pirate past" (based on unauthorized operation under §301 of the Communications Act) from obtaining an LPFM license. [(a)(1)(B)].
  • requiring that LPFM remain non-commercial by limiting ownership to NCE-eligible entities and government agencies [(a)(2)(B)].
  • invalidating any construction permit or license that does not meet third-adjacent channel requirements [(a)(3)].
  • requiring the FCC to undertake an experimental program test to determine whether LPFM stations will result in interference on third-adjacent channels [(b)(1)]. Such testing would be conducted by an independent testing entity [(b)(2)] and the FCC shall publish the results with an opportunity for public comment [(b)(3)].

MITRE proves the NAB wrong

In accordance with the RBPA, the FCC does complete the required experiemental program.  The experiments were conducted by MITRE, a well known government contract testing company and Commsearch.  This was performed by constructing and operating about a dozen of experiemental stations to extensively test the impacts of LPFM stations on third-adjcent channels to incumbent broadcast stations.  In 2004, the FCC submitted the required report to Congress and, based on the results of the MITRE study, recommended that Congress "modify the statute to eliminate the third-adjacent channel distance separation requirements for the LPFM service."

Previous LCRA versions

Prior to the enacted version of the LCRA, there were three previous versions which, especially the 2005 version had some very interesting provisions in it.

The 2005 version, known as the "Enhance and Protect Local Communnity Radio Act of 2005" proposed to put LPFM stations that pledged to operate 8 hours a day of local programming at equal status with full-service stations and have priority over translators.  The bill would have also prevented FM translators from being trafficked and called for periodic LPFM filing windows.  This bill went to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and then to the subcommittee on Telecommunications and Internet, where the bill died in the session.

In 2007, the bill introduced in the House mirrored the 2005 Senate version of the bill.  The version reported to the Senate included provisions that excluded those with a "pirate past", the New Jersey provision retaining third adjacent channel protections and a study on the impact of LPFM on full-power commercial FM stations.  When the bill was introduced into the Senate, it was amended to match the House version.  In the House, the 2007 bill met the same fate as the 2005 bill.  In the Senate, after the amendment, it went to the legislative calendar and died in the session.

In 2009, the House version of the bill which included protections of translator inputs on third-adjacent channels, the more elaborate third-adjacent channel interference remediation method and the special study on the impact of LPFM to commercial radio passed on voice vote and referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportion in the Senate where the bill died.

The 2010 version, which was eventually enacted into law adds new provisions to accommodate second-adjacent channel waivers for LPFM stations (thus overriding the "prescribe protecitions" for second-adjacent that was carried over from the RBPA) and assurances that LPFM, FM translators and FM boosters would remain secondary to full service and equal in status between the three secondary service types.


LCRA 2005

LCRA 2005
LCRA 2007 LCRA 2009

LCRA 2010

Repeals entire Radio Broadcast Protection Act   3 3 3    
Amends Radio Broadcast Protect Act keeping some provisions         2 2
The FCC shall prescribe protection to co-channel, first and second adjacent channels (a)(1)(A)       2(a)(1) 2(a)(1)
The FCC shall prescribe protection to third adjacent channels (a)(1)(A)          
Prohibiting anyone with a "pirate past" (§301) from obtaining an LPFM license (a)(1)(B)       2(a)(2) 2(a)(2)
Eliminate or reduce third-adjacent channel minimum spacing (a)(2)(A)          
Restrict eligibility to non-commercial educational organizations and government agencies (a)(2)(B)          
Licenses that did not meet third adjacent channel prior to 4/2/2001 are invalid (a)(3)       2(b) 2(b)
Repeal third adjacent spacing between LPFM and full-service, translator and boosters.   4(1)(1) 4 4 3 3(a)
Second adjacent channel waiver           3(b)
Retain third-adjacent channel protections to radio reading services   4(1)(2) 5 5 4 4
FCC must ensure licenses are available for both FM translators and LPFM stations and such decisions are based on needs of the local community.     6 6 5 5(1)
Translators, boosters and LPFM remain equal in status and secondary to full-service           5(3)
Protection of translator imput signals on third-adjacent channels         6 6
Third-adjacent channel remediation procedures         7 7
Study on on the impact of third-adjacent channel LPFM on other broadcast services (b)          
Study on on the impact of LPFM to commercial FM stations         8 8
Use Longley-Rice propagation models instead of distance spacing between LPFM and translators   4(1)(3)(A)(i)        
Priority to LPFM stations broadcasting at least 8 hours of locally originated programming per day.   4(1)(3)(A)(ii)        
National ownership cap of 20 FM translator stations.   4(1)(3)(B)(i)        
Restricting an FM station to being heard on no more than 20 translators   4(1)(3)(B)(ii)        
Non-fill in translators secondary to LPFM stations running 8 hours of local programming   4(1)(3)(C)(i)        
LPFM filing windows every 3 years   4(1)(4)(A)        
FCC shall grant "license" applications within 2 years of filing   4(1)(4)(C)        
Inquiry into the public interest obligations of FM and AM digital radio licenses.   4(1)(5)(A)        
LPFM can not be displaced by full-service license grants   4(1)(6)        
Prohibition of voluntary transfers of FM translator stations   4(1)(7)(A)        

The LCRA of 2010 in simple bullet points

While you can ingest the actual letter of the law, here's the basics and how they are current interpreted by the FCC.

  • While the FCC can lift third-adjacent channel protections, protections for co-, first- and second-adjacent channel stations must remain [2(a)(1)].
  • Any organization that has a board member who has engaged in pirate radio activity in the past and had received some kind of FCC notification that they had engaged in a violation of Section 301 of the Communications Act may not be the party to an LPFM application.  This includes if they were never fined for the violation. [2(a)(2)].
  • The FCC can not reduce the distance separations that were in §73.807 of the rules for co-, first- and second-adjacent channel full-service FM stations.
  • Despite the required protections prescribed for second-adjacent channel stations, the FCC may grant a waiver of the second-adjacent channel requirement as long as a showing can be made that no interference will be caused to "any radio service' for which the FCC has interpreted as any radio service on a second adjacent channel.
  • Any LPFM station on a second-adjacent channel waiver must suspend operations upon an interference complaint from a second-adjacent channel full service station and may not fully return to the air until resolved.
  • LPFM stations must maintain third-adjacent channel protections to FM stations carrying a radio reading service for the blind based on a list published in 2001.
  • The FCC must assure that LPFM and translator licenes are available, the distribution of licenses are based on the need of local communities and that LPFM, translators and boosters remain secondary in nature but equal in status to each other.
  • The FCC must provide specific protections from LPFM to FM translators which receive their "input" signal if that signal is received on a channel third-adjacent from an LPFM station.
  • LPFM stations that meet third adjacent channel minimum spacing (same as second) but within 100 km of a full power station on a third adjacent channel must make periodic announcements in the first year of operation describing what to do if there's any interference.
  • LPFM stations that do not meet third-adjacent channel minimum spacing must make specific remediation measures in the event of interference.
  • LPFM stations near New Jersey that interfere with a full-service FM station in New Jersey may be shut down based on the same guidelines used for FM translators under §74.1203 of the rules.

Other facts about the 2010 LCRA

While there were specific items on the radar to achieve in the LCRA, the writing of the new law provides some additional provisions and opportunities.

Protections to FM translators other LPFMs

In the RPBA, the law required minimum distance separations to co, first, second and third-adjacent channels.  The LCRA changed that language to read that LPFM stations must "prescribe protections" on co, first and second-adjacent channels [2(a)(1)].  The LCRA will later state that the FCC can not reduce distance separations between LPFM and full-service FM stations [3(b)(1)].  In section 3(a)(2) and 5(3) of the LCRA, Congress does split facilities into full-service FM, FM translator, FM booster and low-power FM.  The language of the new writing would suggest that LPFM stations are no longer required to use specific distance separation to FM translators as long as they incorporate some form of protection.  This opens the door for LPFM stations to use contour overlap methodlogy to translators as long as the contours protect the translator on co, first and second adjacent channel.  The FCC currently does not allow this and in the past has interpreted the LCRA Section 3(a)(2) to also apply to FM translators (which it clearly doesn't).   Likewise, there's no reason why we can't use contour overlap to protect other LPFM stations.

LPFM as a commercial service

Whether you like the idea or not, the provision in the RBPA that restricted LPFM stations to non-commercial educational organizations and government agencies was repealed and never replaced.  While the statutory restriction on commercial LPFM was lifted, there are many reasons (such as regulatory fees, application fees, auctions, higher music licensing, loss of tax-exempt status, loss of strict ownership guidelines, etc.) why commercial LPFM would not be viable and would not meet the localism objectives that the LPFM service was founded on.

TV Channel 6

Currently, the FCC massively overprotects Low Power TV channel 6 stations from LPFM assuming that all of these stations are operating at maximum facilities.  Our studies have shown that only a small fraction of LPTV and Class A TV stations operate anywhere even near full facilities that are being protected.  TV channel 6 is not even addressed in the LCRA and there is no reason why the FCC can't allow LPFM stations to use the FM translator guidelines to protect TV channel 6 stations.

LP-10 distance separation charts

When the President signed the LCRA in early 2011, the distance separation tables for the former LP-10 service was still on the book.  The LCRA itself does not specify any station powers (the FCC has already acknowledged this).  There is no reason why we can't use the LP-10 numbers in lieu of the LP-100 numbers for co-channel and first-adjacent channel spacing.  LPFM already overprotects full-service FM stations by 20 kilometers.   REC had proposed a "hybrid" method where LPFM stations that do not meet the LP-100 distances but meet the LP-10 distances can use contour overlap to assure no interference.  

So as you can see here, there are aspects of the LCRA that are available to us that we have yet to exploit.  REC is attempting to this in MB Docket 17-105 and in frequent contacts with the FCC in 2018. 

Thank you for your support!