WATERBURY, CT, December 4 -- A new citizens’ group, LET THE CITIES IN!!, has filed a Petition For Reconsideration on the FCC’s recent expansion of the Low Power FM (LPFM) Radio Service of community radio stations (in Docket 99-25). The Petition urges the FCC to allow “radio stations below 50 watts” in highly urban areas.
The 15-member group is composed of aspiring LPFM broadcasters and radio listeners who reside in “urban core” areas of the Top 100 Arbitron Markets. These urbanites are joined in the group by concerned Americans across the nation, The group's attorney is Don Schellhardt of Connecticut (email@example.com), who also leads THE AMHERST ALLIANCE, and its Technology Advisor is Nick Leggett of Virginia (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The current policy in the FCC's final LPFM rule limits all LPFM licenses in all locations, even highly urban areas, to LP100 status (50-100 watts). Because stations above 50 watts are often too large to "fit" into crowded urban spectrum, the present "LP100s only" policy would leave no room on the radio spectrum for any LPFM stations at all in New York City, Detroit and San Jose. The cities of Boston, Pittsburgh, Denver and San Diego would have only one LPFM station apiece. The cities of Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Los Angeles would have only two LPFM stations apiece. LTCI estimates that, overall, at least 40 million Americans would have "severely restricted LPFM coverage or no LPFM coverage at all".
As a solution, most LTCI Members prefer a policy of licensing only LP10 stations (1-10 watts) in highly urban areas. This shift to "LP10s only" would more than quadruple the number of LPFM stations in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Despite this preference, however, the Petition adds that LTCI Members could accept, as a "fallback", a policy of licensing only LP50 stations (1-49 watts) in highly urban areas.
The Petition also asserts that the FCC's November 30, 2012 decisions to eliminate the LP10 class of stations completely, and impose an "LP100s policy" absolutely everywhere, were legally questionable for several reasons:
-- Statements by Commissioners at the November 30 meeting "suggest, strongly" that the Commissioners were under-informed regarding how much damage the universal "LP100s only" policy would do to urban LPFM
-- The Commission never provided the public with an explanation for its rejection of LP10s until the rulemaking process was over, thereby depriving commenting parties of the opportunity to assess and address the FCC's rationale
-- When the FCC finally presented to the public, on November 30, a late-arriving explanation that the FCC has "technical" concerns about LP10s, the expressed technical concerns were "flimsy" and "might be a smoke screen" for an actual motivation that remains undisclosed
-- The “LP100s only” policy is counter to the Local Community Radio Act mandate to assure abundant licensing opportunities for both translator stations and LPFM stations
-- Because members of racial and ethnic minority groups are disproportionately represented among the 40 million Americans who would lose adequate LPFM coverage, as a direct and exclusive result of the FCC's single decision to ban urban LP10s, the FCC has adopted a policy with a "racially disparate impact" that is both negative and massive
-- Because the late-arriving "technical" concerns expressed by the FCC are too debatable and too minor to constitute a "compelling state interest" that could justify massive racial discrimination, the FCC's "LP100s only” policy for highly urban areas is violating the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
In a statement to the press, LTCI attorney Don Schellhardt, who joined Nick Leggett as a founder of the LPFM movement in 1997, added this:
"None of the basic assertions in this Petition should surprise the Commission. I expressed to the FCC all of these concerns, including the legal concerns, in filings I made as an individual in May 2012 and November 2012. Further, some of the same points were raised in filings by Nick Leggett, THE AMHERST ALLIANCE and others. Also, I told the FCC explicitly, in both May and November, that I would file a Petition For Reconsideration if the FCC failed to allow stations below 50 watts in highly urban areas.
"I don't know whether the FCC was listening, but I was certainly speaking."