Welcome to THE REGS

Welcome to the Regulatory sub-wiki. The goal of this sub-wiki is to provide a comprehensive reference to the FCC regulations as well as the various laws that may impact the Low Power FM (LPFM) broadcast service in the United States. If you have something constructive to contribute, please consider becoming an Editor.

FCC Regulations

The regulations for the Federal Communications Commission can be found in Title 47 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

Broadcasting can be found in Part 73.

The rules specific to LPFM can be found in Part 73, Subpart G.

Not all rules that impact LPFM are in Part 73, you can also find some regulations in these other Parts:

Laws governing the FCC and LPFM broadcasting

The FCC is an independent federal agency authorized by The Communications Act of 1934, as amended.

Certain regulations related to the LPFM service were mandated by Congress through the Local Community Radio Act of 2010 which replaced a previous law, the Radio Broadcast Preservation Act of 2001.

Regulatory history of the LPFM Radio Service

See also: Regulatory History of LPFM

The creation of the LPFM service

While there was substantial activism in Washington to support the creation of a new low power radio service, on the regulatory side, the process started in February and March, 1998 with three Petitions for Rulemaking RM-9208, RM-9242 and RM-9246 which introduced various concepts of doing LPFM from petitioner and from commenters. On February 3, 1999, the FCC opened Mass Media (MM) Docket 99-25 with a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that proposed a noncommercial service with three service levels. On January 27, 2020, the FCC would adopt the first LPFM Report and Order to create a new non commercial educational low power radio service with two of the three service classes originally proposed including LP-100, a secondary service allowing stations of up to 100 watts effective radiated power (ERP) at 30 meters height above average terrain (HAAT) and LP-10, a tertiary service allowing stations of up to 10 watts ERP at 30 meters HAAT. One organization may gradually be able to own up to 10 LPFM stations, however the first filing opportunities were limited to one station (with exceptions for local and state governments) and a requirement that the applicant was local. This decision was "fine tuned" by the Order on Reconsideration which added a complaint process for third-adjacent interference, protected radio reading services, clarified interference to translator inputs and created wider carve-outs for transportation agencies and student-run university stations.

The Radio Broadcast Preservation Act of 2001

When the service was created, LPFM stations were not required to protect full-service FM or FM Translator stations on third-adjacent channels. The lack of third-adjacent channel protection was a point of contention for the full-service broadcast industry to the point where the National Association of Broadcasters lobbied Congress to pass the Radio Broadcast Preservation Act of 2001 (RBPA) which forced the FCC to reinstate the third adjacent channel protection requirements. On March 22, 2001, the FCC adopted the Second Report and Order that instated third-adjacent channel protection requirements into the LPFM radio service. A provision in the RBPA required that the FCC institute a study on the effects of full-service stations by LPFM stations on third-adjacent channels. This would eventually become known as the MITRE Study.

Reduction of the ownership cap

In 2007 as a result of the Third Report and Order, LPFM stations were allowed for the first time to assign their licenses to other qualified nonprofit organizations that have an educational purpose and would otherwise qualify for the LPFM service. In addition, the FCC would reduce the limit on ownership from 10 stations down to only a single station. Until this time, there were no subsequent filing windows for the same area and therefore no organization would have had an opportunity to acquire any additional stations and since assignments were not allowed prior to 2007, they could not have a station transferred to them. This situation made it easy for the Commission to institute a one station per licensee policy without impacting any existing organizations. Local and state government agencies operating their stations with a public safety purpose were still permitted to own multiple stations within their jurisdiction.

Local Community Radio Act of 2010

On the heels of an outcome in the MITRE Study that was favorable to LPFM stations on third-adjacent channels, several efforts were made to pass new legislation to lift the statutory requirement for LPFM stations to protect third-adjacent channels. After several attempts, Congress passed the Local Community Radio Act of 2010, a compromise legislation that addressed LPFM stations and FM Translators, which at the time were facing their own controversies. On 2012, the Commission would implement new LPFM rules in 2012 reflecting the legislative changes with the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Reports and Orders.

LPFM Administrative and Technical Orders of 2019/2020

Both in response to Petitions for Rulemaking filed by REC Networks and addressing lessons learned in the 2013 LPFM filing window and 2007 NCE filing window, the FCC adopted the LPFM/NCE Administrative Order which made changes to how LPFM stations can be assigned and changes to the handling of mutually exclusive applications as well as some changes that affected full-service noncommercial educational FM broadcast stations. In the LPFM Tech Order, the FCC also addressed several issues raised by REC Networks including the ability for LPFM stations to use on-channel FM Boosters to improve coverage within their service area and make minor improvements to the way that LPFM stations in the 88.1~91.9 MHz "reserved band" protect full-service and low power TV stations on Channel 6.