Last month, we noted that there were a number of upcoming FCC actions on broadcast matters, as revealed in an article on the FCC’s blog. That article, by FCC Chairman Wheeler, promised that an order on the AM revitalization proceeding was in the works. Such an order is in fact circulating among the Commissioners for consideration and has been the subject of a significant amount of lobbying in recent weeks – mostly because the order apparently omits an application filing window exclusively for AM licensees to file for new FM translators to rebroadcast their signals in their service areas.
Based on ex parte filings (letters submitted to the docket file on the AM improvement rulemaking summarizing meetings held by interested parties with FCC Commissioners and other FCC decision-makers), it appears that that order circulating among the Commissioners omits the AM-only translator filing window, in line with the Chairman’s statements back in April that he does not want to set aside a window exclusively for AM stations to file for new FM translators (see our article here). With the Chairman opposed, the new lobbying seems to be aimed at convincing other Commissioners to support the AM-only window, which many AM operators see as the one sure way to help preserve AM operations for the foreseeable future (perhaps until an all-digital operation becomes feasible). Even though the order apparently does not call for an AM-only window for FM translators, there does seem to be some recognition that translators can assist AMs in their operations.Thus, instead of a window, the reports are that there is instead a plan to allow AM operators to buy existing translators located as far as 200 or 250 miles from the AM station, and move these existing translators to the community where the AM station operates. This seems to be very similar to the Tell City waiver proposal we wrote about here, when that proposal was rejected by the Media Bureau. Of course, the fear of many AM stations is that the big market AM stations would be able to pay more for the existing translators that might be for sale, and most existing translators will be moved to big markets, while operators in small markets won’t get any relief.
This is all being considered while there is a written order already circulating among the Commissioners. A decision could be forthcoming at almost any time. While the decision is not one scheduled for tomorrow’s FCC open meeting, once the other Commissioner vote on the matter, it could be immediately released – before the next FCC meeting. But, until the decision has been voted on, there certainly will be continued attempts to convince the Commissioners how to vote on what many AM broadcasters consider to be a crucial proposal.