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The terms "low-power broadcasting" and "micropower broadcasting" (more commonly "microbroadcasting") should not be used interchangeably, because the markets are not the same. The former term is more often used to describe stations who have applied for and received official licenses.Template:Citation needed The relationship between broadcasting power and signal range is a function of many things, such as the frequency band it uses e.g., Medium Wave shortwave or FM, the topography of the geographical area in which it operates (mountainous or flat), atmospheric conditions, and finally the amount of radio frequency energy it transmits. As a general rule, the more energy a station transmits, the further its signal goes.
Low Power FM, or LPFM is a form of FM Broadcasting that uses a low amount of energy to broadcast a signal that does not travel very far. FM, or frequency modulation radio is often transmitted on a higher frequency than AM radio. Because of the low power usage and short range, LPFM is often seen as a niche radio station that plays things that relate more to the small surrounding community.
In the U.S., the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) partially re-legalized LPFM licenses, after the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), and National Public Radio (NPR) convinced them to stop issuing the FM class D license in 1978.
The new LPFM licenses in the United States may only be issued to nonprofit educational organizations and state and local governments. (47 CFR 73.853) Also, the one and so far only "window" for applications closed in 2003, and at present, the FCC is not entertaining any new broadcast license applications, instead conducting auctions of frequencies for full-power uses only.
Prior to the advent of the LPFM discussion and eventual rulemaking at the FCC, Low Power FM operations were found legally under FCC Part 15.239 in the form of single transmitters and radiating cable operations.
Officially, class D is still assigned to broadcast translators, though the rules are actually much looser (up to 250 watts ERP) than for true LPFM stations, though they may not broadcast their own programming. This is due to the influence of NPR and religious broadcasting companies, which often rely on translators. Since true class D stations can bump translators, they therefore have less competition in getting or keeping their own translators on the air with new class D stations kept off the air.
New classes L1 and L2 are still considered amateur class D for international purposes, but are considered to be equal in status to translators, and subordinate to full-class D stations still operating.
Broadcast Auxiliary-Low Power stations are authorized in the frequency band 76–88 MHz; however, such stations must remain Template:Convert or more distant from any other Part 73 Broadcast Station or LPTV/TV Translator station on Channel 6 if using the 87.8 to 88.0 MHz segment of the band. [[[:Template:CodeFedReg]]] Therefore, these particular stations authorize the use of FM Channel 200 (87.9 MHz). Such stations permit transmissions of live broadcast events. [[[:Template:CodeFedReg]]] To qualify, you must own another broadcast station, or produce TV/motion picture programming (which, with the proliferation of online TV Webcasting, is not difficult). [[[:Template:CodeFedReg]]] Power is limited to 50 milliwatts (1/20th of 1 watt). [[[:Template:CodeFedReg]]] These stations are licensed through the FCC's Wireless Telecommunications Bureau online by accessing ULS. There are equipment requirements in the FCC's rules, but none are too daunting for the typical citizen with an average level of income and savings. Unusual antennas are not allowed; however, gain antennas (up to about 6 db/D gain) are permitted under the rules. The license fee is currently $135 for a 4–8 year term license. Such stations are NOT restricted to filing windows, so a qualified applicant could be licensed at any time. As of January 22, 2010 Low Power Broadcast Auxiliary Stations using the 'Core TV Bands' (Ch.2-51) are permitted to be operated without a license under a waiver of Part 15 rules, although they are required to follow certain technical rules that are proposed to become permanent.<ref>http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-10-16A1.pdf</ref> These stations are not protected from interference by other broadcast entities under Parts 73 or 74 of the FCC's rules, and are not protected from interference by the Part 15 transmitters described below.
Part 15 rules allow for a signal strength of 250 µV/m at 3 meters from the antenna within the band 88 to 108 MHz, set forth in Template:CodeFedReg. Radiating cable antenna systems do allow for longer, if still narrow, radiated fields and are commonly used for building broadcast systems (stadiums, dormitories, apartments, etc...) with high success. Such systems are also used for specialized audiences for hearing assistance and language translation at events. Lack of selectivity and sensitivity in a typical inexpensive FM receiver are the primary limitations in the effective range of these systems.
The Radio Act of 1912 required all amateur radio operators to be licensed and outlawed their ability to transmit over main commercial and military wavelengths. It also required all seafaring vessels to maintain 24 hour radio watch and maintain contact with ships and coastal radio stations in the area. This act set a model for international and federal legislation of wireless communications.<ref name="register.facebook.com">Radio Act of 1912 | Facebook</ref> This act also required all nonprofessional radio operators to obtain a license and forbid them from transmitting over the main commercial and military wavelengths.<ref name="register.facebook.com"/> The Radio Act of 1912 also prevented the Marconi Company from dominating and dictating the activities of the people who used its equipment (this company had been forcing operators to refuse to communicate with those who had purchased and were using other companies' equipment).<ref name="radford.edu">Broadcasting law</ref>
The Radio Act of 1927 placed most of the responsibility for radio to a newly developed Federal Radio Commission. The Federal Radio Commission now had the most control over regulating radio broadcasting. This act showed Congress's acknowledgment of broadcasters' right to "free speech", allowing stations to be free of government censorship and/or government programming.<ref>The Radio Act of 1927 as a Product of Progressivism</ref> In addition, the broadcaster gained responsibility for their own operation and the government could not legally interfere unless the operator had been failing to meet the standard of public interest.<ref>Home of the Federal Radio Commission Archives</ref> All in all, the Radio Act of 1927 set up licensing and frequency allotment networks for commercial radio stations.<ref name="radford.edu"/>
The Communications Act of 1934 established the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The Federal Communications Commission now oversees the licensing of all Low Power Broadcasting Stations.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>
The Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 was established by President Lyndon B. Johnson on November 7, 1967 to create the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and National Public Radio (NPR). Congress declared the Act to be in the "public interest to encourage the growth and development of public radio and television broadcasting.<ref>http://cpb.org/aboutpb/act/text.html</ref> In the 1950s and 1960s, arts and education were often ignored by commercial radio and television producers. Independent, non-profit radio and television stations worked to provide arts education and education broadcasts but they often didn't have the funding.<ref>http://www.endnotes.com/major-acts-congress/public-broadcasting-act</ref> In 1965 the Carnegie Corporation, Ford Foundation and locally owned broadcasting stations lobbied congress to provide the funding for public broadcasting. The goal of the Public Broadcasting Act is to address the entertainment need of audiences like children and minorities and to nationally distribute high quality radio and television programs that provide education and arts education.<ref name="natcom.org">Why Public Broadcasting?</ref> Because the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is federally funded,the Corporation is not permitted to schedule, produce or dessiminate programs. This prevents federal agencies from interfeering with the Corporation or the programming.<ref name="ReferenceA">Fine Tuning the Federal Government's Role in Public Broadcasting; White, Howard A.</ref> The Corporation for Public Broadcasting must conform to the annual federal budgeting and appropriation process, making adequate funding an issue for the Corporation.<ref name="natcom.org"/> This act has been amended several times since 1967.<ref name="ReferenceA"/>
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 was implemented in order to foster competitionTemplate:Citation needed between the firms in the Telecommunications Sector including those stations of LPFM. Reed Hundt, the FCC chair at the time, said that the FCC imposed the act to encourage “diversity in programming and diversity in the viewpoints expressed on this powerful medium that so shapes our culture.” The act “mandates interconnection of telecommunications networks, unbundling, non-discrimination, and cost-based pricing of leased parts of the network.” However the act relies upon the behaviors of companies to do what is in their best interest and does not enforce punishment towards firms that do not abide by the act. Furthermore research suggests that the Act has led to “less competition, fewer viewpoints, and less diversity in programming.”<ref>Commercial Radio Station Ownership Consolidation Shown to Harm Artists and the Public, Says FMC Study | Future of Music Coalition</ref><ref>http://www.opencongress.org/bill/111-s592/text "Congress makes the following findings: The passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 led to increased ownership consolidation in the radio industry. ... At a hearing before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, on June 4, 2003, all 5 members of the Federal Communications Commission testified that there has been, in at least some local radio markets, too much consolidation."</ref>
Sponsored in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressmen Mike Doyle and Lee Terry and in the U.S. Senate by Senators Maria Cantwell and John McCain the Local Community Radio Act of 2007 failed to be voted on. The House bill, H.R. 2802, was referred to the Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet on June 21, 2007.<ref name="govtrack.us">GovTrack.us. (2007) “H.R. 2802: Local Community Radio Act of 2007.” ‘’GovTrack.us.’’ Retrieved February 12, 2008, from http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h110-2802</ref> Since the bill was not passed in FY 2007, the bill was removed from the docket as Never Passed.
This bill is an update of the Local Community Radio Act of 2007. It will require FCC to alter current rules in order to get rid of the minimum distance separation between low-power FM stations and third-adjacent channel stations.<ref name="ww-111hr1147">WashingtonWatch.com. (2009) "H.R. 1147, The Local Community Radio Act of 2009." "WashingtonWatch.com." Retrieved May 23, 2009, from http://www.washingtonwatch.com/bills/show/111_HR_1147.html#toc2</ref> Previously, there had been a minimum distance requirement, however the FCC found that LPFM stations did not cause any interference on third-adjacent channel stations, thus eliminating the need for such a requirement.<ref>RADIO magazine - The Radio Technology Leader. (2004) "FCC Reports LPFM Interference Findings to Congress." "Media Access Project." Retrieved May 24, 2009, from http://www.mediaaccess.org/programs/lpfm/RADIOmagazine.pdf</ref>
The Local Community Radio Act of 2009 also requires that the FCC keep the rules that offer interference protection to third-adjacent channels that offer a radio reading service (the reading of newspapers, books or magazines for those who are blind or hearing impaired.)<ref>KPBS Radio Reading Service. "About." "KPBS." Retrieved May 23, 2009, from http://kpbsreadingservice.org</ref> This protection will ensure that such channels are not subject to possible interference by LPFM stations.<ref name="govtrack.us"/>
The final part of the bill requires that when giving out licenses to FM stations, the FCC must make sure that these licenses are also available to LPFM stations and that licensing decisions are made with regard to local community needs.<ref name="ww-111hr1147"/>
The bill had unanimous bipartisan support from FCC leadership. It was passed by the House and referred to the Senate.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>
The Local Community Radio Act of 2010 (based upon legislation originally introduced in 2005) was signed into law by President Obama on January 4, 2011 as Template:USPL, after passage in the House on December 17, 2010, and the U.S. Senate on December 18, 2010. In a statement after the bill became law, Federal Communications Commission Chair Julius Genachowski said, "Low power FM stations are small, but they make a giant contribution to local community programming. This important law eliminates the unnecessary restrictions that kept these local stations off the air in cities and towns across the country." The Act states the following: The Federal Communications Commission, when licensing new FM translator stations, FM booster stations, and low-power FM stations, shall ensure that-- (1) licenses are available to FM translator stations, FM booster stations, and low-power FM stations; (2) such decisions are made based on the needs of the local community; and (3) FM translator stations, FM booster stations, and low-power FM stations remain equal in status and secondary to existing and modified full-service FM stations. In General- The Federal Communications Commission shall modify its rules to eliminate third-adjacent minimum distance separation requirements between-- (1) low-power FM stations; and (2) full-service FM stations, FM translator stations, and FM booster stations.
Unlike the former FM class D license, an LPFM station has no priority over broadcast translators in the allocation of available spectrum. This is problematic insofar as a loophole in the regulations for broadcast translators exempts non-commercial stations from the requirement that translators be within the coverage area of the original station that they rebroadcast.
An FCC licensing window for new translator applications in 2003 resulted in over 13,000 applications being filed,<ref>RadioWorld.com - RW Special Report</ref> most of them coming from a few religious broadcasters. Although many believe that these broadcasters were exploiting a loophole allowing non-commercial stations to feed distant translators from satellite-delivered programming hundreds or even thousands of miles outside the parent station's coverage area,<ref name="mediageek-2147">mediageek: Another Kind of Low-Power Station Hogging Radio Spectrum</ref> this is incorrect. Except for local fill-in translators and those located on channels 201–220, all translators on commercial frequencies must be fed by a direct, over-the-air source, regardless of who owns the translator per FCC rule 74.1231(b).<ref>Template:CodeFedReg(b)</ref> One station cannot apply for hundreds or thousands of translators nationwide, using automated means to generate license applications for all available channels, unless all of their applications are exclusively on the non-commercial part of the broadcast band (88–91.9 MHz). (47 CFR 74.1231(b)) As with any new service that shares the FM spectrum, when translators are added to an area, they can reduce or eliminate the availability of channels both for new LPFM applicants and for relocation of any existing LPFM stations displaced by full-service broadcasters.
Unlike an LPFM station, a translator is not required to (and legally not authorized to) originate any local content except as permitted by 47 CFR 74.1231(g).
LPAM licensed operations in the United States are frequently the low power night time or post-sunset/pre-sunrise authorizations for higher power licensed AM stations, these vary in power but are typically 100w or less. Part 90.242 licensed operations are normally authorized for 10w or less, although some 100w emergency authorizations exist, primarily in locations where emergency evacuation may be part of the operations. Legal unlicensed operations are governed under FCC Part 15.219, 15.221 primarily.
There are several manufacturers of unlicensed, legal "Part 15" AM transmitters with a power of about 0.1 watt.<ref>LPAM Hamilton AM1000 Rangemaster Part 15 AM Transmitter Hobby Broadcasting Company</ref><ref>Procaster low power AM transmitter</ref> Higher output powers are allowed within the campus of any school, so long as the normal Part 15 rules are adhered to when measured at the edge of the campus. Many currently licensed college radio stations started out this way. Stations may have freestanding radio antennas, or may use carrier current methods to ride on power lines. These signals cannot pass through transformers, however, and are prone to the electromagnetic interference of the alternating current. Stations may also use 'leaky' or radiating cable transmission systems. Tens of thousands of these stations have been in operation around the country since the 1940s, and many continue to thrive where conventional licensing is unavailable and the operators still desire to conform to Federal laws.
Part 90.242 systems are known as Travelers' Information Stations (TIS), sometimes also called highway advisory radio (HAR). These are licensed LPAM stations set up by local transport departments to provide bulletins to motorists and other travelers regarding traffic and other delays. These are often near highways and airports, and occasionally other tourism attractions such as national parks. Only governments may have licenses for TIS/HAR stations, and music is disallowed. These operate under FCC Part 90.242 and may be licensed by quasi-governmental agencies as well (many are used by chemical and nuclear facilities for emergency evacuation information systems) as well as by public safety entities for mobile operations.
LPTV (-LP) is common in the U.S., Canada and most of the Americas where most stations originate their own programming. Stations that do not originate their own programming are designated as translators (-TX). The Community Broadcasters act of 1998 directed the FCC to create classification of LPTV licenses called Class A (-CA). Digital low power and Class-A television stations have an ERP limit of 3000(3KW) watts for VHF, and 15 kilowatts for UHF.<ref>FCC Slideshow slide 56</ref>
The LPTV service is considered a secondary service by the FCC, which means the licensee is not guaranteed protection from interference or displacement. An LPTV station must accept harmful interference from full-service television stations and may not cause harmful interference to any full-service television station. (The FCC defines what interference levels are deemed to be "harmful".) The problem with potential displacement was made evident during the transition of broadcasting in the United States from analog to digital. All television stations operating on channels 52 and above were required to move to channel 51 or below. Full-service stations were guaranteed a place to land in the new compressed band while LPTV stations operating on channels 52 and above were forced to find their own channel to move to. If a station was not able to find a displacement channel it runs the risk of losing its license.
The FCC provided for a one-time filing opportunity for existing LPTV stations to become Class A stations. The designation was available only to those LPTV stations that were producing two hours per week of local programming. Class A status provides for protected channel status and Class A stations are required to produce two hours per week of local programming, maintain a production studio within their Grade B contour, and comply with many of the requirements placed on full-service television stations.
One of the key distinctions between full-service television stations and low-power stations is cable TV and Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS) carriage. Full-service stations are guaranteed carriage in their local DMA through "must-carry" and LPTV stations are not. In 2008 there was an effort put forward by FCC Chairman Kevin Martin to grant must-carry rights to Class A LPTV stations. The effort failed due to a lack of support from the other FCC Commissioners.
Though many low-power TV stations are either unaffiliated, or broadcast programming from small networks meant for their use, some LPTV stations are affiliated with major broadcast networks like Fox, The CW or My Network TV. Examples include in Youngstown, Ohio, where a pair of LPTV stations based at WYFX broadcast Fox programming, along with the digital subchannel of the co-owned CBS affiliate, WKBN-TV, or in the Lima, Ohio area, whose low-power stations are affiliates of major networks, such as NBC and ABC.
On July 15, 2011, the FCC issued an order to low power broadcasters that effectively requires that all remaining TV transmitters to vacate channels 52 to 69 by December 31, 2011. In that same order, the FCC effectively requires that all remaining analog transmitters to shut down by September 1, 2015.
Unlike FM and AM, unlicensed use of TV bands is prohibited for broadcasting. The amateur television channels do allow for some very limited non-entertainment transmissions however, with some repeaters airing NASA TV during Space Shuttle missions when they are not in local use.
The Low Power Television industry was represented by the Community Broadcasters Association (CBA), which held its annual convention each year in October and an annual meeting each year in April at the National Association of Broadcasters Convention in Las Vegas. The meeting was always held on Monday night of the NAB convention in Ballroom B of the Las Vegas Hilton and was open to anyone interested in the Low Power Television industry.Template:Citation needed On August 13, 2009, the CBA announced in a statement that it would shut down after 20 years of representing LPTV stations. One reason given was the "restrictive regulations that kept the Class A and LPTV industry from realizing its potential". Another was the inability to reach most viewers, partly due to Multichannel Video Programming Distributors refusing to carry these channels. Also, Amy Brown, former CBA executive director, said, "some 40% of Class A and LPTV station operators believe they will have to shut down in the next year if they are not helped through the digital transition."<ref>Template:Cite news</ref>
In February 2006, the FCC released its Notices of Proposed Rules for Digital Radio. The Commission reaffirms its commitment to provide broadcasters with the opportunity to take advantage of digital audio broadcasting (DAB) technology, proposed criteria for evaluating models and systems, such as the In Band On Channel (IBOC) system, and inquired on the needs for a mandatory DAB transmission standard.
In section 39 of the Notice, the FCC inquires as how to balance incentives for broadcasters to switch to digital systems with incumbents of new entrance opportunities, stating that they “seek analyses of the minimum power levels that would preserve service within protected service areas in an all-digital environment, and alternatively, the levels that would not result in significant disruptions to current listening patterns.”<ref>Prometheus Radio Project, Initials. (2006, February 12). Review of fcc proposed rules for digital radio and impact for lpfm. Retrieved from http://prometheusradio.org/node/139</ref>
The DAB system that has been identified as the best fit for LPFM is IBOC system. This is a hybrid system that uses existing frequencies and can operate carrying digital information along with analog broadcast signal on the sidebands. However, the digital carriers require the bandwidth to be widened, which would cause interference to stations on the first adjacent channel. If LPFM adopts IBOC, then LPFM would also need to accept a second adjacent channel restriction between two LPFM stations, as there is a potential that the sidebands of two LPFM stations would overlap causing interference. Currently, imposing a second adjacent channel restriction would impact less than 10 LPFM stations.<ref>Eyre, Michelle. (2008, September 21). A Comparitive overview of digital audio broadcasting (dab) systems. Retrieved from http://home.recnet.com/dab</ref>
Radio communications in Canada are regulated by a branch of Industry Canada called Radio Communications and Broadcasting Regulatory Branch together with Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). This means, interested parties must apply for both a certificate from Industry Canada and a license from CRTC in order to operate a radio station. Industry Canada manages the technicalities of spectrum space and technological requirements whereas content regulation is conducted more so by CRTC.
LPFM is broken up into two classes in Canada, Low (50w) and Very Low (10w). The transmitters therefore range from 1-50 watts, as opposed to 1-100 watts in the U.S. As of 2000, 500 licenses (very low and low power FM) have been issued. These transmitters are generally only allowed in remote areas.
The regulation of spectrum space is strict in Canada, as well having restrictions on 2nd and 3rd adjacent channels along with other protections for AM and FM commercial radio. In addition, because there have been a few cases that found that FM frequencies have caused interference to the aeronautical navigation and communications (NAV/COM) spectrum, (though evidence is not very concrete presently) pirate radio regulation has remained very strict as well. However, the two regulating bodies do have certain exemptions. For example, low power announcement transmitters that meet the requirement of Broadcasting Equipment Technical Standards 1, Limited Duration Special Events Distribution Undertakings, Temporary Resource Development Distribution Undertakings, and Public Emergency Radio Undertakings are a few instances, which according to certain criteria, may be exempt from certificate/license requirements.<ref>Industry Canada. Radiocommunications and Broadcasting Regulatory Branch, Spectrum and Telecommunications Management. (2000). Frequently asked questions on low power fm broadcasting (RIC-40). Ottawa, Ontario: Spectrum Publications.</ref>
In Canada, there is no formal transmission power below which, a television transmitter is broadcasting at low power. Industry Canada, in most cases, considers a television transmitter to be low power if the noise-limited bounding contours are less than 20 km from the antenna.<ref>Part 10: Application and Procedures and Rules for Digital Television (DTV) Undertakings</ref>
Temporary low-power stations are allowed at times via a Restricted Service Licence.
Since 2001Template:Citation needed longterm LPFM licences have been available in remote areas of the country. These are currently used for many establishments including military bases, universities and hospitals with fixed boundaries.
In New Zealand residents are allowed to broadcast licence free at a maximum of 1 watt EIRP in the FM guardbands from 87.6 to 88.3 and from 106.7 to 107.7 MHz under a General User Radio License (GURL) issued by Radio Spectrum Management. Prior to June 2010, the lower band was located between 88.1 and 88.8 and a maximum of 500 mW EIRP allowed. Broadcasters on these frequencies are required to cease operations if they interfere with other, licensed broadcasters and have no protection from interference from other licensed or unlicensed broadcasters, contacts details must also be broadcast every hour. There exists a 25 km rule: You may operate two transmitters anywhere (close together), but a third transmitter must be at least 25 km away from at least one of the first two transmitters.
There are efforts on self-regulation of the broadcasters themselves.
J. H. Snider and Lawrence Lessig say that low power "smart" radio is inherently superior to standard broadcast radio.
"Technologists are increasingly discussing a related kind of gain called 'cooperation gain.' ... think about a party. If I need to tell you that it's time to leave, I could choose to shout that message across the room. Shouting, however, is rude. So instead, imagine I choose to whisper my message to the person standing next to me, and he whispered it to the next person, and she to the next person, and so on. This series of whispers could get my message across the room without forcing me to shout." — "Wireless Spectrum: Defining the 'Commons'" by Lawrence Lessig 2003 (mirror)
"if nodes repeat each other's traffic. If I want to talk to someone across the room, I don't have to shout. I can just whisper it to someone near me, who can pass it on, and so on. ... as we add more transmitters, the total capacity goes up slightly, but we still have to face the fact that each transmitter's capacity goes down (just slower). Even better, we all end up using less energy (since we don't have to transmit as far), saving battery life." — Open Spectrum: A Global Pervasive Network by Aaron Swartz
"Every time a broadcaster receives a license, the amount of available spectrum goes down. ... New technology, however, increases bandwidth with the number of users." — "Why Open Spectrum Matters: The End of the Broadcast Nation" by David Weinberger
"If we lose ... open spectrum, we're also going to lose the open Internet" — "The war against open spectrum" by Dana Blankenhorn 2007