MYTH: Since the LPFM station claimed the main studio and/or local programming points in the filing window, they are automatically required to have a man studio doing local programming.
This myth culminates from a misunderstanding of comparative point systems used in the noncommercial broadcasting space and a lack of firm guidance from the FCC on this issue.
During the Second Generation (2013) and Third Generation (2023) filing windows for new LPFM stations, applicants were able to make pledges to:
- Pledge at least 8 hours of local programming per day. (The definition of what local programming is can be found in §73.872(b)(2) of the rules.)
- Pledge to maintain a publicly accessible main studio. (The guidelines for this requirement can be found in §73.872(b)3) of the rules.)
An applicant that makes one of the two pledges can claim one point. If they take both pledges, they can claim 3 points. This is in addition to the points for established local applicant (if qualified), broadcast diversity and if qualified, Tribal.
In the full-service noncommercial world, comparative preference is given to proposals based on whether their station will reach areas that are not served or underserved by other noncommercial stations (this is known as “Fair Distribution”) as well as those that propose a facility that is technically superior to that of the other competing applicants.
In the full-service noncommercial world, if the construction permit is granted and comparison of the Fair Distribution and or technical superiority factors were used to choose the winner, the applicant is subject to meet those requirements in their constructed facility and with that, conditions are placed on their construction permit and subsequent license.
In LPFM, while the FCC had stated early on that they expect licensees to meet the pledges, they have never given clear guidance on this. After multiple consultations with FCC staff on this issue, the clear understanding on this issue is that LPFM stations are only subject to these pledges, if like with the full-service example above, that a comparison of the point factors were needed to make a decision on whether the grant or dismiss the application.
However, in the past filing windows, the FCC never backed up those pledge requirements with conditions similar to what is in the full-service world. To assure that in the event the FCC decides to enforce these pledges in the future, REC does provide a page with a listing of the LPFM applications from the Second Generation (2013) filing window where point comparisons were used in the outcome of the window and thus the stations are subject to the pledges.
FACT: LPFM stations are only required to have a main studio and 8 hours a day of local programming if those points were claimed in the window and they were a factor for the construction permit grant.