Many of the thousands of FM translators that have been pending since 2003 may be approaching the finish line to be granted very soon. The FCC has issued a Public Notice announcing that over 700 applications are now ready to be granted. The applications that are identified on the list are "singletons", or applications that are not mutually exclusive with any other application. Applicants who find their applications on the list need only file a "long-form" application on FCC Form 349 by March 28. A long form application provides full technical information about the applicant’s proposal, as well as some ownership information about the applicant. FCC officials have stated that, as long as the long-form application does not change the technical proposals set forth in the short-form applications submitted in 2003, the long form should be granted. Instructions for additional showings that need to be made if changes are made are available here.
So what’s next for the 2003 applicants, and what opportunities are there for other radio broadcasters? The clear opportunity for broadcasters is that there are soon going to be about 700 new translators, with many more to come after the settlement window and auction. All of these applications were filed 10 years ago, some of them by parties whose interests may well have changed in that prolonged period of waiting. So there are bound to be at least some translators that will be granted and available for sale or some sort of programming arrangement. Once these 700 translators applications and the other applications from the 2003 window are processed, there will be no other new translators that are possible until the next time the FCC opens a translator filing window – which won’t happen for at least a year (and quite possibly well after that), until after the FCC first holds the promised LPFM window later this year (with an October target date) and processes the applications from that window. So now is the time for broadcasters to be reviewing the translator applications that are being granted from the 2003 window to see if there may be opportunities for the broadcaster to find a facility to retransmit an AM station or an HD-2 signal.
For the remaining translators in the 2003 window, the FCC still needs some additional showings in connection with applications for the larger markets and for a few smaller markets with numerous translator applications (the so-called "Appendix A markets", as they were listed in an Appendix to one of the FCC’s Orders in this proceeding) to show that they will not interfere with LPFM opportunities. After the 700 long-form applications are filed, and these major market non-interference showings are made, the FCC will open a settlement window in which mutually exclusive applicants will have an opportunity to work out a settlement before any auction will occur. Of course, prior to the settlement window opening, the FCC will need to identify which applications are mutually exclusive with each other. Don’t be surprised if, along the way, there are additional applications that are identified as being singletons, and invited to file long-form applications.
There still remains much to be done before an auction of any 2003 applications that do not reach a settlement, and before an LPFM window opens later this year as promised by the FCC. So look for the FCC to move quickly on all of these matters in the coming days.