2003 FM translator window

The processing of the FM translator applications left over from the 2003 translator window marches on. The FCC today announced the window for long form applications for all the translator applications that are no longer mutually exclusive with other applicants. The FCC has asked for long-form applications for these 1239 applications (filed on Form 349 and providing more detailed legal and technical information about the applicant and its proposed operation) to be filed by August 30. The FCC Public Notice about this filing deadline is here. The list of applications that are identified as singletons are here.

Many of these applications are those that filed technical amendments in the recent settlement window eliminating mutual exclusivity with other applications. There are 1239 such applications that could be granted as a result of this action, on top of the applications already identified as "singletons" before the settlement window (see our article here), and perhaps others still subject to FCC processing. The remaining applications, who were not able to resolve mutual exclusivity with other applicants, will end up in an auction at some point in the future. 

In the long-forms, the applicant may make minor changes to its technical facilities that were specified in the tech box on the original application. However, these changes, if made in a market that the FCC deemed spectrum-limited for purposes of LPFM availability, must contain a "preclusion study" showing that they will not impact LPFM opportunities in their markets. Any changes are also secondary to any application filed in the upcoming LPFM window.


Continue Reading Over 1000 New FM Translators Almost Ready for Grant – Long Form Applications Due August 30, Changes Secondary to LPFM Applicants

April is one of those months in which many FCC obligations are triggered for broadcasters. There are the normal obligations, like the Quarterly Issues Programs lists, that need to be in the public file of all broadcast stations, radio and TV, commercial and noncommercial, by April 10. Quarterly Children’s television reports are due to be submitted by TV stations. And there are renewal obligations for stations in many states, as well as EEO Public File Reports that are due to be placed in station’s public files and on their websites. The end of March also brings the obligation for television broadcasters to start captioning live and near-live programming that is captioned on air, and then rebroadcast on the Internet. Finally, there are comment deadlines on the FCC’s proposal to relax the foreign ownership limits, and an FM auction and continuing FM translator filing requirements.

Radio stations in Texas and television stations in Tennessee, Kentucky and Indiana have renewal applications due on April 1. The license renewal pre-filing broadcast announcements for radio stations in Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming, and for TV stations in Michigan and Ohio, must begin on April 1. All of these stations will be filing their renewals by June 1. EEO Annual Public file reports for all stations (radio and TV) with five or more full-time employees, which are located in Texas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Delaware, Pennsylvania or Indiana, must be placed in their public files (which are now online for TV broadcasters) by April 1.   Noncommercial radio stations in Texas, and noncommercial TV stations in Tennessee, Indiana Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky must also file their Biennial Ownership Reports by April 1


Continue Reading April FCC Obligations for Broadcasters – Renewals, EEO, Quarterly Issues Programs Lists, Captioning of Live or Near-Live Online Programming, FM Translator Filings, an FM Auction and Comments on Alien Ownership

Many of the thousands of FM translators that have been pending since 2003 may be approaching the finish line to be granted very soon. The FCC has issued a Public Notice announcing that over 700 applications are now ready to be granted. The applications that are identified on the list are "singletons", or applications that are not mutually exclusive with any other application.  Applicants who find their applications on the list need only file a "long-form" application on FCC Form 349 by March 28. A long form application provides full technical information about the applicant’s proposal, as well as some ownership information about the applicant. FCC officials have stated that, as long as the long-form application does not change the technical proposals set forth in the short-form applications submitted in 2003, the long form should be granted. Instructions for additional showings that need to be made if changes are made are available here

So what’s next for the 2003 applicants, and what opportunities are there for other radio broadcasters? The clear opportunity for broadcasters is that there are soon going to be about 700 new translators, with many more to come after the settlement window and auction. All of these applications were filed 10 years ago, some of them by parties whose interests may well have changed in that prolonged period of waiting. So there are bound to be at least some translators that will be granted and available for sale or some sort of programming arrangement. Once these 700 translators applications and the other applications from the 2003 window are processed, there will be no other new translators that are possible until the next time the FCC opens a translator filing window – which won’t happen for at least a year (and quite possibly well after that), until after the FCC first holds the promised LPFM window later this year (with an October target date) and processes the applications from that window. So now is the time for broadcasters to be reviewing the translator applications that are being granted from the 2003 window to see if there may be opportunities for the broadcaster to find a facility to retransmit an AM station or an HD-2 signal. 


Continue Reading FM Translator Processing Continues as FCC identifies Over 700 Applications that Can Be Granted – What’s Next for Translator Applicants? What Should Broadcasters Be Considering?

The FCC last week issued a Public Notice announcing the dismissal of approximately 3000 FM translator applications. This was as a result of its requirement that applicants from the 2003 FM Translator Window select no more than 70 total applications to prosecute (see our articles here and here), and no more than 3 in any

As we wrote last month, the FCC has issued an order attempting to resolve the remaining issues between FM translators from the 2003 FM translator window, whose processing has been frozen for over 5 years, and LPFM stations. As part of the Commission’s order, it decided that translator applicants would be limited to 3 applications in any "Appendix A market" – essentially the Top 150 Arbitron markets and a handful of other markets with high numbers of translator applicants – and 70 applications nationwide, of which at least 20 must be outside of the Appendix A markets. To move the processing of these applications forward, so that the FCC can get to its goal of clearing out the translator applications so that it can open a window for the filing of new LPFM applications in October, the FCC announced in a Public Notice released just before Christmas that translator applicants with applications pending that would be in excess of either the in-market cap of 3 application or the national cap of 70 applications, need to make elections as to which applications they will pursue during a window from January 10 through January 25. If only it were so simple.

The election is not a simple one – as it goes far beyond simply submitting a list of applications that an applicant seeks to prosecute. Instead, the applicant must meet the other criteria set out by the FCC in its order last month, and information demonstrating such compliance. For applicants seeking to prosecute more than 50 applications, or more than one application in any market, the applicant must show that each of the applications they are pursuing do not have 60 dbu overlap with any other application that they are pursuing, or with any translator authorization that they currently hold. For applicants seeking to prosecute more than 50 translator application (with those applications in excess of 50 having to be outside of the Appendix A markets), the applicant must also show that, at the transmitter site that they propose, there will be an opportunity at their proposed site for at least one LPFM station to operate on another frequency in the upcoming LPFM window. For those seeking to prosecute more than one application in an Appendix A market, the applicant must show that any additional applications will not preclude the use of LPFM opportunities identified through the use of the "grids" that the Commission adopted for measuring LPFM opportunities in their March order on this issue. These are not easy showings to make, so applicants looking to take advantage of these relaxations in the application caps need to get started on their engineering reviews immediately.


Continue Reading Processing of 2003 FM Translators Continues – January 25 Deadline to Select Applications to Meet Application Caps

The FCC offered its solution for the remaining conflicts between LPFM advocates, applicants for new FM translators from the 2003 FM translator window, and full-power FM stations with a series of orders approved by the FCC at its open meeting on Friday. We wrote about some of the issues on the table for the FCC’s resolution

The relationship between low power FM stations and both FM translators and full-power FM stations will be addressed by the FCC at its open meeting on November 30 – the only issues on the FCC’s agenda for that meeting. We expect that two controversial matters will be discussed – (1) the effect that the thousands of FM translators that remain pending from the 2003 translator window will have on LPFM availability and how to deal with those applications and (2) the interference considerations between translators and full-power stations, including issues such as second-adjacent channel interference waivers and the situations in which LPFM interference to full-power stations will require that the LPFM cease operations. For LPFM advocates and applicants, issues are also outstanding about the qualifications for LPFM applicants in an upcoming (yet-to-be announced LPFM filing window), including whether there will be obligations placed on LPFM operations for specific amounts of local program origination.

The FM translator issue has been a long and contentious one. In 2003, during the last FM translator window, thousands of applications for FM translators were filed. LPFM advocates have contended that the grant of these applications would preclude LPFM opportunities. After processing applications for a couple of years, the FCC froze the processing of all the remaining applications, and in 2007 announced that applicants would only be able to prosecute 10 of their remaining pending applications. There were many objections filed to that decision. Last year, the FCC announced a much more granular process for determining which translator applications could be processed, looking on a market-by-market basis at the prospects of LPFM interference, and deciding that translator applications would only have to be dismissed where interference limited LPFM opportunities for a given number of LPFM stations. The Commission also decided that a cap of 50 applications should be imposed on the number of applications that one entity could continue to prosecute, and limited applicants to prosecuting one application per market. See our summary of the FCC decision on the translator-LPFM issues here. These issues are all subject to petitions for reconsideration.


Continue Reading FM Translators and LPFM on FCC Agenda for November 30 Meeting – A Final Resolution for the Pending 2003 Translator Applications?

The status of LPFM stations has been up in the air almost since they were first created over a decade ago, as the FCC has been slow to open a window for filing applications for new stations while controversies about interference with full-power FM stations and FM translators, and other issues, were being hashed out. This past week, the FCC issued two orders interpreting the Local Community Radio Act ("LCRA") passed by Congress in late 2010 (which we summarized here), and clarifying other issues affecting the service.  This article will discuss the first of the two orders – attempting to resolve the priorities between LPFM stations and the thousands of applications for new FM translators still remaining to be processed from the FCC’s 2003 FM translator window. Subsequent articles will discuss the second order (which also contains a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking asking for public comment on several proposals).  That order and NPRM addresses the interference protections between LPFM and full-power FM stations, the elimination of third-adjacent channel protections, and proposes some changes in LPFM rules, including proposals to allow LPFM stations to operate with up to 250 watts ERP in smaller markets, and even to operate FM translator stations of their own.

The first order attempts to resolve the issues about the FM translator applications that have been pending since 2003.  LPFM advocates contend that the thousands of applications that remain to be processed will foreclose LPFM opportunities, particularly in larger markets, by using up all available spectrum.  The translator applicants, on the other hand, have contended that translators provide an important service – expanding the reach of noncommercial stations and now allowing new outlets to more readily make available to the public the signals of AM stations and FM HD streams.  The order sets out markets where the FCC has found that spectrum is indeed limited for LPFM opportunities, where translator applications will be dismissed to provide opportunities for a certain base level of  LPFM service.  The order does not fully adopt the system proposed in the FCC’s July NPRM in this matter (see our summaries here and here)  which would have required the blanket dismissals of all translator applications in spectrum limited markets.  Instead, it provides opportunities for some translators to be processed even in these markets with limited LPFM opportunities, where it can be shown that these translators do not in fact block such opportunities. This is detailed below, as are the rules that the FCC has adopted which set local and national limits on the number of applications from the 2003 window that one applicant can continue to process and some changes in the rules regarding FM translator use by AM stations.


Continue Reading FCC Clarifies Rules for LPFM – Part 1 – What to Do With FM Translator Applications From the 2003 Filing Window, and Using Translators for the Rebroadcasting of AM Stations

The long-brewing debate between Low Power FM advocates and FM translator applicants is on the FCC’s tentative agenda for its March open meeting, to be held on March 21.  The FCC’s agenda includes two items.  The first deals with the priorities between the potential spectrum available for LPFM stations and the pending applications for FM translators left to be processed from the 2003 FM translator window.  This follows up on the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued in July, proposing to process all of the translator applications pending in certain markets, while dismissing all of the applications remaining in other markets where it appears that spectrum available for LPFM is very limited, and where the grant of translator applications would block LPFM opportunities.

The second item deals with the future processing of LPFM applications in light of the passage of the Local Community Radio Act (summarized here).  The LCRA, among other things, lifted the prohibition against predicted third-adjacent channel interference from LPFM stations to full-power FM stations, and also provided for waivers of second adjacent channel interference in instances where the new LPFM would not create any actual interference to other FM users.  Where interference would be created, there would be a strict policy, like that which applies to translators, that the LPFM would have to cease operations if there were any interference to a regular user of an FM station – even outside of the station’s protected contour.  The second item to be addressed by the Commission will give details on how they plan to implement the requirements of the LCRA. 

The adoption of these two items will clear the way for a new window for LPFM applications – perhaps later this year.  In anticipation of that window, an LPFM advocacy group recently issued a press release indicating that they expected 10,000 new LPFM applications to be filed in an upcoming FM window.  Is that number realistic?   Who knows, though we’d be surprised if there was really that much pent up demand, especially given the ownership limits on LPFM applications, essentially limiting most parties to one application.  But if anything even approaching that number of applications is filed, look for potential problems in the FM band.


Continue Reading FCC Prepares to Resolve the Conflicts Between LPFM and FM Translators – Could 10,000 Low Power FM Applications Be On the Way to the FM Band?

August 29 will be the deadline for initial comments on the FCC’s proceeding to set the relationship between applications for new LPFM stations and those for FM translators, a date set forth in a Federal Register publication of the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on this topic.  We wrote about the FCC’s NPRM here.  But