Supplied by the Federal Communications Commission
ALLEGATION: “Rush to Judgment?”
Opponents allege the FCC has “rushed to judgment” in adopting the low power FM radio service (“LPFM”).
FACT: There was no rush to judgment in the FCC’s decision on January 20, 2000 to authorize LPFM service. In fact, all parties, including the National Association of Broadcasters and individual broadcasters, had ample opportunity over an almost two-year period to participate in this proceeding. Here are the facts:
—The FCC placed the initial petition for rulemaking in this matter on Public Notice on February 5, 1998, over two years ago.
—After extensive comment on the Public Notice, the FCC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on January 28, 1999. The NPRM established an unusually long, three-month public comment period.
—The NAB and its members then requested and were granted four extensions for more public comment. Other parties vigorously opposed some of these extensions.
—As a result of the FCC’s granting all four of these extension requests, the original three- month comment period became a 10-month comment period, an extension of over seven months.
—Throughout the extended comment period and thereafter, the NAB filed voluminous comments, reply comments, technical studies, and other submissions, all of which were thoroughly reviewed by the Commission and its expert staff.
—For these reasons, the Commission on January 13, 2000, in a letter to Eddie Fritts, President, NAB, denied the NAB’s request to delay further Commission consideration of the LPFM item beyond the January 20, 2000 open meeting.
Opponents allege that LPFM stations will result in intelligible “crosstalk” interference on nearby FM radio stations, i.e., listeners will hear actual words being spoken on an LPFM station on a nearby FM radio station.
FACT: The type of “crosstalk” interference suggested by the NAB in its misleading CD demonstration on Capitol Hill, where you can intelligibly hear portions of both transmissions, is not likely to occur from actual LPFM stations operating on 3rd adjacent channels when the receiver is properly tuned to the desired station:
—Any such interference that might occur from an LPFM station would nearly always appear as noise or hissing, as shown in the FCC’s own CD demonstration on Capitol Hill. The NAB “crosstalk” demonstration therefore does not represent actual FM radio performance and thus is meaningless.
—The NAB also incorrectly states that the FCC considers a 3 percent level of total harmonic distortion plus noise from interference to be acceptable. This also is wrong. The FCC Report and Order refuted a similar, previous NAB assertion and clearly indicated that the Commission based its evaluations on a 1 percent level. To continue to make the argument in its CD about an alleged 3 percent level of harmonic distortion in the FM band acceptable to the FCC can only be viewed as a deliberate misrepresentation by the NAB of the FCC’s findings and analysis.
ALLEGATION: Not Addressing NPR Concerns?
Opponents allege the FCC is not addressing the concerns of National Public Radio about the impact of the LPFM service on protecting the inputs to NPR translators and interfering with radio reading services for the visually impaired.
FACT: The FCC, in fact, is seriously reviewing NPR’s concerns during the current period of agency reconsideration of the new LPFM service, both with regard to translators and radio reading service issues:
—With regard to translators, the FCC indicated in its Report and Order that applicants for new or modified low power FM radio facilities will be required to protect the existing service of FM translator and booster stations. This protection is afforded through minimum separation requirements for co-channel stations, 1st adjacent channel stations, and 2nd adjacent channel stations.
—With regard to radio reading services for the visually impaired, some of these services have raised concerns about interference to their services from LPFM. Radio reading services, which carry newspapers and information aurally to the visually impaired, operate as sub- carriers (“SCA”) on FM frequencies. Just as FCC testing has determined that existing stations will not experience harmful interference, the Commission stated in its Report and Order on LPFM service, on p. 46, that sub-carriers on these frequencies should not experience harmful interference.
—The concerns about radio reading services are related more to the technology of the receivers than to the signal itself. The Commission is currently testing a number of SCA receivers used for radio reading services that were provided to it by National Public Radio. If it is found that there is a significant potential for 3rd adjacent channel interference that will affect service provided through these receivers, the Commission can and will take steps to protect radio reading services.
—In this regard, we also note that only a relatively few FM stations provide radio reading services on their SCA channels. The FCC should thus be able to protect such services, if necessary, on a case-by-case basis.
ALLEGATION: Licenses Issued on March 27?
Opponents allege the FCC started to issue LPFM licenses on March 27, 2000.
FACT: On March 27, 2000, the FCC conducted a lottery to determine the order by state in which the Commission will accept applications for the new LPFM service. The first LPFM applications will be filed no earlier than late May and the first LPFM licenses will be granted no earlier than late August or early September.
ALLEGATION: Impact on Digital Radio?
Opponents allege that LPFM service will impede the development of digital radio.
FACT: The development of digital radio will not be impeded by the adoption of LPFM service:
—The proponents of the in-band, on-channel (“IBOC”) digital transmission systems for FM radio have consistently indicated that they are engineering their systems to perform in the current FM radio environment. When compared to the current interference environment, LPFM will be a miniscule interference source because any effects it might have would occur in only very small areas.
—The engineering submission of a major proponent of digital radio, USA Digital Radio (“USADR”) expresses no concern about 3rd adjacent channel protection. USADR’s concerns relate to 2nd adjacent channel protection that would occur outside a station’s protected contour.
—The IBOC systems will transmit duplicative information in both the upper and lower sidebands of an FM signal. If any interference were to interrupt temporarily the upper sideband, for example, the digital receiver will be able to provide service from the lower sideband, and vice versa.
ALLEGATION: Abandonment of Spectrum Management Mandate?
Opponents allege the FCC has abandoned its responsibility to maintain the integrity of the FM spectrum. They allege the administrative record in this proceeding does not support the conclusion that the new LPFM licenses will not result in unacceptable interference. They also allege that the FCC has conducted no proper studies and developed no satisfactory record.
FACT: In adopting the LPFM service, the Commission has taken a conservative approach in protecting existing FM service. Moreover, the new LPFM radio service has been subject to extensive public comment and engineering testing. The administrative record in this proceeding is thousands of pages long. It includes thousands of public comments as well as four major technical studies of 75 consumer FM radio receivers of various types and performance capabilities, including automobile radios, component tuners or receivers, portable radios such as “boom boxes,” personal radios such as “Walkman” type units, and clock radios. For example:
—The FCC did not adopt its original proposals to permit 1000 watt, commercial LPFM stations and to allow LPFM operations on 2nd adjacent channels.
—In addition to specifying low power operations, the new LPFM rules provide a number of other safeguards to protect existing FM stations, such as limitations on antenna height and separation requirements for low power stations with respect to full-power stations operating on the same channel, on 1st and 2nd adjacent channels, and on intermediate frequency channels.
—The FCC also added a 20 km buffer zone to the required separation distances between LPFM and full service stations that are operating on co- and 1st adjacent channels. This buffer will provide an additional margin of protection for full-power stations that modify or upgrade their facilities.
—The LPFM stations will be of such low power, and the separation distances prescribed by the FCC for 100 watt stations are so conservative that if any interference occurs it will be no greater than the minimal interference accepted by the FCC and the listening public on current radio receivers.
—Over 400 full-power FM stations authorized prior to November 1964 do not meet the 3rd adjacent channel protection requirements. In 1997, the FCC grandfathered these “short spaced” FM stations. These full-power stations, which operate with only one or two channels between them and the next station on the dial, have consistently met the Commission’s criteria for distortion-free signals.
—The separation requirements for 100 watt LPFM stations are also much more conservative than those which apply to existing, grandfathered low power “Class D” stations which have been successfully coexisting with full-power stations for many years.
ALLEGATION: Only Expensive Radios Tested?
Opponents allege the FCC only tested expensive radios before adopting the LPFM service.
FACT: The FCC study tested a wide range of 21 radios. These included both new and used car radios, boom boxes and low-cost home stereos. These 21 radios were certainly not fancy, high-priced radios-what some engineers call “lab queens.” In fact, the radios tested included a couple of their own personal radios that FCC Laboratory engineers were about to discard:
—FCC engineers found that all of the radios we tested far exceeded the current interference protection standards for the 3rd adjacent channel.
—Moreover, all but two of these 21 radios we tested exceeded the current interference protection standards for even the 2nd adjacent channel which we nonetheless decided to retain, erring on the conservative side of our spectrum management mandate.
ALLEGATION: Impact on Minorities?
Opponents allege the LPFM service will have a negative impact both on minority, low-income listeners and on minority-owned radio stations.
FACT: LPFM service will benefit listeners in low-income, minority communities as well as the larger listening public. Moreover, minority-owned stations will not have to compete with LPFM stations for any advertising dollars since the new LPFM service is non- commercial.
ALLEGATION: Impact on “Pirate” Radio?
Opponents allege the FCC will be giving LPFM licenses to “pirate” radio operators.
FACT: The FCC under Chairman William Kennard has vigorously enforced the broadcast licensing scheme, and will continue to be vigilant in its enforcement. Those organizations that broadcast without a license in the past, or individuals serving as officers or directors of organizations which broadcast without a license, are ineligible for an LPFM license, unless they certify that they promptly ceased operations when notified of their violation by the FCC and, in any case, ceased operations as of February 26, 1999.