The FCC has an open proceeding pending to allow AM stations to use FM translators. As we have written, while this proceeding continues, the Commission is allowing AM stations to rebroadcast their signals on FM translators on under Special Temporary Authority. In a case decided today, the FCC made clear that this is only permitted where the translator already is an authorized facility. In this case, an applicant requested that the FCC grant it temporary authority to operate an FM translator on a frequency where no authorization has been granted or even applied for. The Commission’s staff found that it had no authority to authorize such an AM station to put its signal on the FM band unless there was an authorized translator that could be used, or until the full Commission decided differently in the pending proceeding and allows AM stations to apply for new translators.
While this seems like a fairly straightforward decision, there is one interesting issue noted in the decision. The applicant claimed that the FCC could authorize an FM translator on a temporary basis if the public interest supports it, citing a case in Nevada where the FCC authorized the temporary operation of a Low Power FM station for which no authorization had been filed. We wrote about that case here, and the press suggestions that this application was granted at the request of a Nevada Senator even though it was not within the normal FCC processes. In the case released today, the Commission’s staff denied that the Nevada case provided any benefits to the applicant – stating that the Nevada decision was an unpublished decision with no precedential value. Perhaps the decision also reflects the change of administration – to one that promises to be more observant of established processes and to make decisions based on reasoned decision-making.