When we first started this blog over two years ago, one of our first posts to receive a comment (proving that at least someone was actually reading what we wrote) dealt with the FCC’s proposal to allow AM stations to be rebroadcast on FM translators, a change of the Commission’s long-standing prohibition on using FM translators for anything other than rebroadcasting FM stations. While some commenters expected this proposal to be rushed through the FCC, we cautioned that the process might not be so fast, as there were parties who would be opposed to more uses of FM translators, including LPFM advocates who fear that more use of FM translators will preclude opportunities for new LPFM stations. Well, it looks like the long wait for a decision to allow the use of translators for AM stations may soon be over, as the matter is listed as a possible topic for consideration at the FCC’s September 25 meeting. This is only a list of possible agenda items, and even were it to make it to the agenda, it can always be removed. But even being listed as a possible item for consideration does seem to be a positive development indicating that the FCC’s analysis of the matter has neared completion.
As we have written, the FCC has already allowed some AM stations to begin broadcasts on FM translators pursuant to Special Temporary Authority. But any STA is by its nature temporary, and can be revoked at any time. AM broadcasters would welcome the certainty that any permanent decision will bring. Of course, applications for new FM translators can only be filed during a window for such filings, and as the last translator window is still tied up in questions about how many applications by each party should be processed, AM licensees looking for FM translators must find existing translators (or construction permits from the last window) in order to take advantage of any rule change that the Commission may make. Nevertheless, any change will immediately provide an important benefit to at least some AM broadcasters.