Only three weeks ago, we wrote about an application for experimental authority filed by an AM station operator in Arizona, seeking permission to cease operating its AM station for a one year test to operate solely with its paired FM translator. We suggested that this proposal portended much for the AM band. However, the FCC apparently did not see this proposal as that earthshaking, and while we were at the NAB Radio Show last week, it dismissed the request for experimental authority to conduct this test on the grounds that it really did not propose any sort of experiment that the experimental rules were designed to promote.
The decision from the Audio Division of the Media Bureau found that the request did not meet the purposes of the experimental rules which require that, to be granted, a proposal needs to provide “research and experimentation for the development and advancement of new broadcast technology, equipment, systems, or services which are more extensive than that which currently exists or which require other modes of transmission than can be only implemented via an experimental permit.” The FCC found that no new technology was proposed (as everyone knows how an FM translator works) and that any market information about consumer behavior could be gathered while still operating the AM station. In addition, the FCC found that the proposal would undercut the FCC’s AM revitalization effort, which seeks to promote AM operations, not to allow AMs to transition into fully FM operations. So, AM operators with FM translators need to keep those AM transmitters humming for the foreseeable future if they want to keep operating those FM facilities.