'Franken' FM Stations Serve Public Interest, LPTV Advocate Argues

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WASHINGTON—LPTV Channel 6 stations aren’t the monsters that NPR argued they were and should be allowed to remain operating on analog radio signals, says the Preserve Community Programming Coalition (PCPC) in a filing to the FCC.

The FCC Media Bureau had previously requested comments on whether analog LPTV stations should be able to continue to program an analog radio service on 87.7 FM after the final digital television conversion deadline, currently set for July 2021. NPR filed comments in which it said that these Franken FMs, as it referred to LPTV Channel 6 stations, caused “harmful interference to public radio stations operating in the immediately adjacent FM band.”

Now PCPC, a group of FM Channel 6 broadcasters, has submitted a filing of its own refuting NPR’s arguments, saying that “although many of these stations have been broadcasting analog audio carriers on 87.7 FM for more than a decade, the record does not include a single instance of actual, unresolved interference resulting from such operations. Furthermore, there is no dispute that the FCC can easily modify its rules to ensure that these existing services can continue after the digital transition.”

PCPC notes in its filing that NPR, a programmer, and the low power FM advocacy groups REC Networks and Common Frequency have been LPTV Channel 6 stations’ strongest opposition. It says only one full power FM licensee (California State University Long Beach Research Foundation and Educational Media Foundation) has commented, in which it says any concerns about interference to adjacent FM stations are unfounded or can be mitigated.

NPR also argued that the services provided by these LPTV stations don’t serve the public interest because the programming—sports, contemporary, religious and foreign-language broadcasts—are offered by other FM stations. 

“This is the equivalent of arguing that NPR-member station WNYC does not serve the public interest because it is one of five stations with news/talk format serving the New York area,” PCPC said. “Just as NPR-member stations provide unique programming and services to serve their communities in ways that other stations with similar formats do not, so too do analog channel 6 TV stations providing aural programming on 87.7 FM.”

PCPC believes that the FCC should authorize currently operating analog LPTV Channel 6 stations to continue transmissions at 87.7 MHz without interruption after the digital transition deadline passes.

The full filing can be found online.