As we wrote last month, the FCC has issued an order attempting to resolve the remaining issues between FM translators from the 2003 FM translator window, whose processing has been frozen for over 5 years, and LPFM stations. As part of the Commission’s order, it decided that translator applicants would be limited to 3 applications in any "Appendix A market" – essentially the Top 150 Arbitron markets and a handful of other markets with high numbers of translator applicants – and 70 applications nationwide, of which at least 20 must be outside of the Appendix A markets. To move the processing of these applications forward, so that the FCC can get to its goal of clearing out the translator applications so that it can open a window for the filing of new LPFM applications in October, the FCC announced in a Public Notice released just before Christmas that translator applicants with applications pending that would be in excess of either the in-market cap of 3 application or the national cap of 70 applications, need to make elections as to which applications they will pursue during a window from January 10 through January 25. If only it were so simple.

The election is not a simple one – as it goes far beyond simply submitting a list of applications that an applicant seeks to prosecute. Instead, the applicant must meet the other criteria set out by the FCC in its order last month, and information demonstrating such compliance. For applicants seeking to prosecute more than 50 applications, or more than one application in any market, the applicant must show that each of the applications they are pursuing do not have 60 dbu overlap with any other application that they are pursuing, or with any translator authorization that they currently hold. For applicants seeking to prosecute more than 50 translator application (with those applications in excess of 50 having to be outside of the Appendix A markets), the applicant must also show that, at the transmitter site that they propose, there will be an opportunity at their proposed site for at least one LPFM station to operate on another frequency in the upcoming LPFM window. For those seeking to prosecute more than one application in an Appendix A market, the applicant must show that any additional applications will not preclude the use of LPFM opportunities identified through the use of the "grids" that the Commission adopted for measuring LPFM opportunities in their March order on this issue. These are not easy showings to make, so applicants looking to take advantage of these relaxations in the application caps need to get started on their engineering reviews immediately.

The Public Notice provides other processing guidelines and details, as well as details as to what the FCC will do in the event that an applicant fails to make an election yet exceeds the application caps (essentially dismissing all but the first filed applications that fit under the caps). If you are interested in processing 2003 translator applications, review these procedures carefully as there are many tricks and details that can lead to processing problems and potential application dismissals. And, even if your applications are not subject to the caps, start reviewing your pending applications now, as the next processing step will likely be the opening of a settlement window where remaining applications that are mutually exclusive will be able to attempt to negotiate settlements as to which applications to pursue.


Corrected – 1/3/2013, 2:30 EST to correct typo in the national caps