FCC to clear translator backlog, create new LPFMs

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The FCC took another step March 19 toward licensing more low-power FM stations, a move long advocated by community radio leaders. The agency will work through a backlog of thousands of applications for FM translators under a new system that it formally adopted, modifying a proposal floated last summer (Current, July 25, 2011). The pending translator apps must be processed before any new LPFM licenses can be awarded.

The commission will toss out FM translator apps in larger markets to make way for LPFMs in those areas while continuing to process requests for translators in less-populous areas. Applicants can seek no more than 50 translator licenses nationwide, a new limitation cracking down on speculative filings seen in the past (Current, March 28, 2005). The FCC also asked for comment on a variety of measures affecting noncommercial radio, including some that would give a boost to Native American groups.

The Prometheus Radio Project, an advocacy and support group for low-power broadcasters, welcomed the FCC’s action. “We are pleased that the FCC has taken such a careful approach to preserving channels for community radio,” said Policy Director Brandy Doyle in a press release. “And we’re particularly glad that the FCC has taken our recommendation to ensure that the frequencies set aside are in populated areas, where they are needed.”

The FCC could begin taking LPFM apps as soon as the fall, according to Prometheus.

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