The window for filing applications for new FM translators for Class C and D AM stations has now closed. According to a statement from FCC Chairman Pai, over 1000 AM stations took advantage of the filing window. What’s next? The FCC will take these applications and determine which of them are mutually exclusive with some other application filed during the window that ended yesterday. Those that are not in conflict with any other application filed during the window will be asked to complete the Form 349 application (so far, applicants have filed only the “tech box” setting out the basics of their technical proposal). The completed Form 349s will be processed and, barring any issues, construction permits will be granted.
The FCC will also determine which applications are mutually exclusive. At some point, it will release a list of all mutually exclusive applications, and these applicants will be able to discuss resolving their conflicts by minor technical amendments to their applications (e.g. site changes, directional antennas, changes to a new channel within 3 channels of the channel they originally proposed in the tech box application). It is important that applicants not discuss possible resolution with other broadcasters in their market at this time, as this is theoretically an auction proceeding where there are rules against “prohibited communications” that are now in effect. It might seem silly that you can’t discuss a resolution of a conflict with a competitor now when, in a few weeks, the FCC will allow it (and in fact probably encourage it). But, by applying the auction rules to this filing window, these prohibitions are in effect and are taken seriously by the FCC until the settlement window opens.
Applications that are mutually exclusive and that cannot be resolved during the settlement window will likely end up in auction at some point in the future. One would think that this will happen principally in spectrum-congested markets where there are multiple AM stations eligible for the auction, but few available channels for translators. But we will all just have to wait and see what the list of mutually exclusive applications looks like when the FCC releases it sometime in the coming weeks.