ARCHIVED -  Public Notice CRTC 1993-95

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Public Notice

Ottawa, 28 June 1993
Public Notice CRTC 1993-95
In Public Notice CRTC 1992-21, the Commission issued for public comment a series of questions related to the establishment of a priority system for the licensing of low-power radio stations. The questions were designed to elicit comment that would assist the Commission in developing a policy to ensure that low-power frequencies be used for purposes that best fulfil the objectives of the Broadcasting Act.
Nine submissions were received in response to the public notice. While most of the submissions addressed the general questions concerning the establishment of a priority system for licensing low-power radio stations, only the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) and the National Campus and Community Radio Association (NCRA), responded to all or most of the questions, and suggested modifications to the Commission's proposed policy.
This notice summarizes the responses received to the various questions set out in the public notice, and sets out the Commission's licensing policy for low-power radio broadcasting.
The Commission emphasizes that this policy does not apply to those persons operating low- power radio operations that were specifically exempted from licensing in Public Notices CRTC 1993-44 (Temporary Resource Development Distribution Undertakings), 1993-45 (Limited Duration Special Event Facilitating Undertakings) 1993-46 (Ultra Low-Power Announcement Service Undertakings), 1993-47 (Carrier Current Undertakings Whose Services are not Carried on Cable Systems), or to those persons operating any other low-power radio undertakings that the Commission may exempt in the future.
B.Questions and Responses
In its public notice, the Commission asked three general questions:
 Should a system of priorities be devised as part of a licensing policy for low-power radio?
 What should be its elements?
 In what order of importance should those elements be ranked?
The public notice then called for comments on five elements that might be included in a priority system. These elements are:
a) availability of frequencies,
b) content of programming,
c) correlation between power and potential audience,
d) duration of service, and
e) availability of alternate means of delivery.
Finally, the Commission posed subsidiary questions relating to the implementation of a priority system, in particular, when to apply such a priority system, whether to issue calls for competing applications, the need for market studies, the use of rebroadcasters, and the need for a Promise
of Performance.
1. The Need For a Priority System
Seven of the nine briefs received by the Commission addressed the general issue of whether the Commission should establish a priority system for the licensing of low-power radio stations. All considered that a priority system should form part of the policy for low-power radio, with priority given to conventional stations, including not-for-profit stations, over non-conventional or one- dimensional services, such as tourist information services.
2. The Five Elements:
a) Availability of Frequencies
In the public notice, the Commission asked:
 What should be the relative importance in a priority hierarchy of the availability of low- power frequencies in any area?
Six submissions addressed this question. All considered that the availability of frequencies should be the primary consideration in such a system. Two of those argued that the availability of frequencies must be considered to ensure that sufficient spectrum is available for the establishment of not-for-profit campus, community or native stations.
b) Content
With respect to content, the Commission posed the following questions:
 What should be the relative importance of content among the elements in a priority hierarchy?
 Should the various types of services (conventional, safety, traffic information, etc.) be ranked in order of public necessity and, if so, how?
  Which of the various types of undertakings should be allowed to provide commercial content? What types of commercial activity (conventional or sponsorship) should be permitted, and how much? Should there be a provision with respect to certain undertakings to ensure equitable opportunity for advertisers to have their messages broadcast?
Six parties expressed the view, in general, that conventional stations should have priority over one-dimensional services.
The NCRA stated that not-for-profit stations should be accorded top priority and that commercial broadcasters should be excluded from using low-power frequencies. The NCRA added that, even if the Commission were to decide to continue to license low-power conventional commercial stations, it should not licence for-profit, one-dimensional services.
The CBC considered that originating and rebroadcasting stations with programming aimed at a general audience should be given priority over one-dimensional services.
According to the CAB, the best way of resolving the question of priorities would be to establish two broad categories of undertakings. Priority A would encompass all conventional stations, while one-dimensional services would fall into Priority B. Priority B stations could be divided further into two sub-categories, one for not-for-profit public services and the other for profit-oriented services.
With respect to the permitted levels of advertising, the CAB argued that the status quo should be maintained for not-for-profit stations and that private, profit-oriented services be the only ones in the Priority B category permitted to broadcast advertising. The CAB also considered that government-sponsored services should be financed entirely from public funds, and special events stations should be funded entirely by the sponsoring organization. For its part, the NCRA recommended that only conventional stations be permitted to have commercial content in their programming.
c) Correlation Between Power and Coverage
The Commission sought answers to the following questions:
 What should be the relative importance among the elements in a priority hierarchy of transmitter power or coverage area?
 What should be the appropriate power and coverage combination for each type of low-power undertaking?
Four briefs addressed these questions. There was a consensus among them for giving priority status to conventional stations and for limiting commercial one-dimensional services to very low-power operation.
One submission considered that, in remote areas, conventional commercial broadcasters should be allowed to use Low-Power AM (LPAM) or Low-Power FM (LPFM) frequencies because there would be no need to use more power to reach the potential audience.
d) Duration of Service
The Commission asked:
 What should be the relative importance among the elements in a priority hierarchy of duration of service?
Two briefs addressed the issue. The NCRA considered that not-for-profit broadcasters should not be penalized if they offered less than full-time service. The CAB, however, maintained that duration of service should be considered on a case-by-case basis in areas where channels are scarce.
e) Availability of Alternate Means of Delivery:
The Commission asked:
 What should be the relative importance in a priority hierarchy of the availability of alternative means of delivery? The briefs that addressed this issue argued that one-dimensional, profit-oriented services should be required to demonstrate that low-power AM and FM radio frequencies are the only possible means of providing the type of service they propose.
C. The Commission's Policy -- Introduction of a Priority System for Licensing Low-Power Radio
The submissions revealed a consensus on the need to establish a priority system as part of a licensing policy. Such a system would give priority to conventional broadcasting services over one-dimensional services, such as those providing tourist information services, and would apply in areas where there is a scarcity of frequencies. The Commission also considers that not-for-profit stations should reasonably be accorded precedence.
The Commission therefore establishes the following priority system for the licensing of low-power radio undertakings. The priority system will generally be applied in areas that the Commission has previously identified as those where available frequencies are scarce on the basis of the projected FM frequency requirements of the CBC, private commercial, educational, community and campus broadcasters. These areas are Vancouver/Victoria, Montreal and surrounding area and Southern Ontario.
When considering competing applications for the use of low-power frequencies in these areas where such frequencies are scarce, the Commission will generally give priority to conventional broadcasting services (Priority A) over one-
dimensional services (Priority B). Moreover, the Commission will generally attach to the various types of services falling within the two priority groupings a priority that corresponds to their relative ranking within each, as set out below:
Priority A Services:
 1) Originating conventional not-for-profit radio services (e.g. community, campus and native);
 2) Originating conventional for-profit radio services (private commercial broadcasters, including ethnic);
 3) Rebroadcasting transmitters of local stations rebroadcasting within the station's contour;
 4) Rebroadcasting transmitters of distant signals (the CBC will have priority within this sub-group of Priority A services).
Priority B Services:
 1) Not-for-profit public information services (e.g. traffic or weather information services);
 2) Commercial announcement services.
The following three factors may also be considered by the Commission in its evaluation of competing applications of the same type for the same low-power frequency. The Commission realizes, however, that the relative importance of each of these factors may vary depending on the type of service proposed. Such importance will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
The correlation between power and potential audience: Generally speaking the Commission will consider that the larger the audience served by the undertaking, the higher the priority it should be accorded.
The duration of service: the longer a proposed service is to be on the air (whether on a daily, weekly, monthly or yearly basis), the more valuable it generally will be deemed to be.
The availability of alternate means of delivery: non-conventional services that can be delivered effectively only through use of a broadcasting frequency will generally be considered to have a higher priority than those that can be provided by alternate means, such as through the use of roadside signs or newspapers.
Subsidiary Issues
1.  Application of the Priority System
In its public notice, the Commission asked:
 Should a priority system be applied at the time of the licensing decision, at the time of renewal, or at the time the undertaking with the higher priority goes on air?
Only the CAB responded to this question. It considered that it would be neither practicable nor desirable for the Commission to alter the priority status of operations that have already been licensed. It therefore recommended that, once licensed, a station should not have to change frequency or be obliged to cease operation because of the licensing of another undertaking that, under Commission policy, might have had a higher priority.
The Commission agrees. It will therefore apply the priority system only in
assessing new applications competing for use of the same frequency.
2. Calls and Market Criteria
The Commission asked the following questions:
 Should the Commission issue a call for competing applications in the case of applications for low-power undertakings, and, if not generally, under what circumstances?
 Should [the] process and criteria [in Public Notice CRTC 1991-74] be applied to low-power undertakings?
The CAB and the NCRA addressed these issues and expressed differing views.
On the question of whether there should be calls for competing applications, the NCRA considered that there is no need to issue a call for a drop-in frequency unless two or more applications proposing not-for-profit services, and seeking use of the same frequency, are filed with the Commission. Further, it recommended that commercial broadcasters and non-conventional services should be excluded from competing for an identified drop-in frequency with applicants proposing not-for-profit operations.
The CAB, for its part, however, considered that whenever any application is received for a LPFM in a geographic area where frequencies are scarce, the Commission should issue a call for competing applications.
With respect to the Radio Market Criteria, the NCRA considered the criteria should not be applied in assessing applications by those proposing new low-power undertakings because the criteria are not relevant to not-for-profit broadcasters. The NCRA added, however, that if the Commission wished to establish criteria for low-power community radio undertakings, a limit based on population should be considered (e.g. no more than one such undertaking should be licensed for each 100,000 residents of an area).
The CAB argued that those seeking licences for ethnic undertakings, or for undertakings that would be not-for-profit, should be subject to the Radio Market Criteria because they are allowed to broadcast advertising.
In light of its policy determination to apply a priority system in assessing competing applications proposing new, low-power radio services, and only in relationship to each other, it will be necessary for the Commission to issue a call upon receipt of any completed application. It further considers that its decision to grant the highest priority to not-for-profit undertakings should
alleviate concerns expressed by the NCRA that those seeking licences to operate such undertakings would otherwise face a disadvantage in competing with commercial broadcasters for low-power frequencies.
The Commission will therefore issue calls for competing applications upon receipt of any and all complete applications for licences to carry on low-power undertakings in areas where frequencies are scarce (as identified above). The receipt of applications proposing a service in areas where frequencies are not scarce will not trigger such a call.
The Commission recognizes the concerns expressed by the CAB about the impact of new low-power stations on the revenues of commercial radio stations. It notes, however, that the radio market criteria have not been applied to not-for-profit stations in the past, and it does not wish to implement a policy that would unnecessarily inhibit the development of this sector of radio broadcasting. The Commission is also satisfied that the impact of any new not-for-profit, low-power stations on the revenues of commercial radio stations would be limited.
The Commission will therefore apply the radio market criteria only to new commercial (for-profit) low-power radio undertakings; non-conventional services will be excluded from application of the market criteria.
The Commission asked:
 Should the Commission continue to consider applications for the use of low-power transmitters to rebroadcast the programming of existing undertakings? Under what circumstances should it do so, for instance, in cases where technical problems limit coverage within an undertaking's licensed service area?
Three submissions addressed the issue.
Both the CBC and the CAB considered that the Commission should continue to authorize the licensees of existing stations to establish rebroadcasting transmitters, and that a lower priority should be given to rebroadcasters of distant signals than to rebroadcasters of local stations proposed for the purpose of solving coverage problems.
The NCRA considered that, as a rule, new rebroadcaster transmitters of existing commercial services should not be permitted, other than in mountainous areas where the applicant is licensed to serve a region or a number of small communities. In such cases, the applicant should have to demonstrate that there is no alternative but to install a rebroadcasting transmitter to provide its service and that there are other frequencies available for use in the area to allow the establishment of future not-for-profit stations.
The Commission supports the view that rebroadcasters of local services designed to alleviate coverage difficulties should have a higher priority than rebroadcasting transmitters for non-local services, and this has been incorporated into the priority system set out earlier in this document.
4. Applications for Multiple Low-Power Frequencies for Non-Conventional Use
In its policy proposal, the Commission described a situation where one or more applicants might propose to employ several low-power frequencies for non-conventional use, thereby exhausting the frequencies available in a particular area. It then posed the following question:
 How could the relative merits of the types of proposals described above be assessed in a priority system?
The CAB addressed this matter and suggested that there should not be a separate process developed for such a situation.
The Commission agrees, and will deal with such applications using the priority system set out earlier. To the extent that the applications have features not contemplated in this notice, the Commission will proceed on a case-by-case basis.
5. Competitive Non-Conventional Services
In its public notice, the Commission asked:
 Should the Commission's licensing policy for low-power radio preclude the licensing of competitive, non-conventional services?
Three submissions addressed the issue.
The NCRA and the licensee of a campus radio station considered that the Commission should not grant licences to competitive, non-convent onal services, while the CAB indicated that such licensing should be permitted if the applicant can demonstrate both a need and commercial viability.
The Commission appreciates that over-licensing of competitive non-conventional services in areas where frequencies are scarce could lead to congestion of the radio band and hinder the future development of conventional low-power radio services. However, in areas where there is a relative abundance of frequencies, there would seem to be little reason to exclude, out of hand, the possibility of competitive non-conventional services. The Commission further notes that non-conventional services will be given a lower priority than conventional services under the system outlined earlier in this document.
The Commission will therefore consider the licensing of competitive non- conventional commercial services on a case-by-case basis. In areas where there is a scarcity of frequencies, the priority system outlined earlier in this document will be applied.
6. Use of the Extended AM band
The Commission asked:
 To what extent might some of the services currently being contemplated for low-power undertakings be accommodated on the newly extended upper portion of the AM band?
The NCRA, the CBC and the CAB agreed that some non-conventional public announcement services, such as those that provide information to tourists and motorists, should be accommodated on the extended AM band.
While noting the position expressed in these submissions, the Commission considers that it is too early to gauge the eventual demand for use of the extended portion of the AM band. It is possible that the extended AM band will represent a better alternative for a conventional broadcaster than use of LPAM or LPFM facilities. The Commission therefore considers it premature to support the move of some non-conventional services to the extended AM band. It will delay announcement of any determination on this question until an evaluation of the potential impact of such a move is completed.
7.  Application of the Radio Regulations, 1986 (the regulations) and/or Promises of Performance
The Commission asked the following questions:
 To what extent should the provisions of the regulations be applicable to the various types of low-power programming undertakings?
 To what extent should such low-power undertakings be required to comply with a Promise of Performance?
Five submissions addressed these questions.
The NCRA considered that basic licensing requirements create legitimacy for not-for-profit operations and should thus be maintained, but with enough flexibility for programming to develop. The NCRA also stated that, should the Commission decide to licence commercial broadcasting undertakings in the LPFM band, they should be subject to all regulations and requirements governing full-power commercial broadcasting.
The CBC recommended that low-power stations broadcasting travel and traffic information announcements as a public service should be relieved of the requirement to maintain logs and recordings of material that is broadcast.
The CAB considered there to be no need to change the requirements for campus/community, instructional and ethnic stations, but that the Commission should allow more flexibility in the case of non-conventional programming undertakings.
One campus radio station licensee urged the Commission to maintain the Promise of Performance and other requirements in the case of competing low-power undertakings.
The Canadian Independent Record Production Association considered that the regulations, especially their requirements for Canadian content, should also apply to low-power undertakings that provide conventional programming services.
The Commission considers that the regulations should apply to the licensees of conventional low-power undertakings since they offer programming that is similar to that of higher-power conventional stations. It further considers that it is appropriate to require licensees of conventional low-power FM stations to submit Promises of Performance. In the case of non-conventional services, it might not be appropriate to apply all of the regulations or require Promises of Performance. However, the Commission considers that a condition of licence should be attached to the licences of non-conventional stations to ensure that they do not change their programming and begin to offer services identical or similar to those of conventional licensees, without prior Commission approval.
The Commission will therefore generally require licensees of conventional low-power radio stations to adhere to the regulations, unless otherwise specified by condition of licence, and will require the licensees of conventional low-power FM stations to file Promises of Performance. The question of whether to require adherence to the regulations by the licensees of non-conventional services will be considered on a case-by-case basis. In addition, licensees of non-conventional low-power undertakings will be subject to a condition of licence that defines their programming in such a way as to ensure that they do not change their programming and begin to offer the same services as conventional licensees without Commission approval.
Allan J. Darling
Secretary General

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