Should broadcasters be able to originate programming on FM translators? Playing off the proposal to allow limited amounts of programming on FM boosters – basically the insertion of local ads, news, or emergency alerts – in the zonecasting proposal on which the FCC took comments earlier this year (see our summary here), a group of broadcasters has taken the proposal one step further, and asked if translators (including those FM translators rebroadcasting AM stations) should not have the same rights proposed for boosters. Comments on this proposal (available here) are due July 23.
These comments were originally filed in connection with the zonecasting proceeding (see our summary of the comments here). But they go beyond the zonecasting proposal for limited amounts of origination programming on boosters, and seek to expand the amount of time that translators can originate programming different than their primary stations. The advocates propose not just the substitution of short messages, but to allow translators to originate as much as 40 hours per week of programming different than that offered on their primary stations. And the proposal also suggests that translators be allowed to be located within the primary station’s 45 dbu contour, rather than within the 60 dbu contour of an FM primary station as now required (playing off the 45 dbu contour now being used as the one in which primary FM stations can claim protection from interference from FM translators – see our article here).
The comments that are due by July 23 are just the initial stage of the FCC review, giving the FCC advice as whether or not to devote more time to reviewing and processing this idea. If there is enough support from the industry and internally at the FCC, the FCC would further review the idea, formulate specific proposals for the implementation of some or all of the suggestions in the petition, and ask for further public comment in a Notice of Inquiry or Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. Only after the receipt of those comments would the FCC be able to adopt any of these suggestions. So it will likely be well down the road before any of these ideas could be implemented.