It appears that the FCC is attempting to clear its backlog of pending translator applications – and moving quickly to do so. On Friday, it released a Public Notice announcing a new auction beginning on May 15 for the small set of mutually exclusive applications left from last year’s window for the filing of FM

The FCC yesterday released a Public Notice announcing a filing window from March 14 to March 28 for “long-form” applications for new translators that were filed in last summer’s window for Class C and D AM stations to seek new FM translators to rebroadcast their stations. The Public Notice also sets the procedures for filing in this window. The window is for the filing of complete Form 349 applications by applicants who were deemed mutually exclusive in a notice released by the Commission last year (see our article here) but who were able to work out a settlement or technical solution to that mutual exclusivity in the window at the end of last year for resolving such conflicts. By resolving those situations of potential interference with other applicants, these applications can now be granted. The list of applicants who are invited to file the long-form application is here (in an Excel format). The long-form application requires more certifications and more specific technical information than that which was submitted during the initial filing window. It also allows for minor amendments to applications as long as they do not create any new conflicts.

After the long-form application is submitted to the FCC, the application will be published in an FCC public notice of broadcast applications. Interested parties will have 15 days from that publication date to comment or object. If no comments are filed, and no other issues arise, the FCC’s Audio Division is known for its speed in processing translator applications so that grants might be expected for many of the applications late within a month or two of the filing deadline.
Continue Reading FCC Announces Long-Form Application Deadline for AM Stations that Resolved Mutually Exclusive Situations in First Translator Window

The holidays are over, and while the regulation never stops, it is time to once again buckle down and look at what is on the horizon for broadcasters. While, in the next few days, we will have our typical look ahead at the broadcast regulatory agenda in Washington for the New Year, we also need to look at more immediate deadlines in the month of January. As we are at the beginning of a calendar quarter, the tenth of the month is the date for broadcasters to add their Quarterly Issues Programs Lists for the just completed quarter to their public file – whether it be the online public file for TV broadcasters and the many radio groups that have already converted to the online file, or into the paper file for those radio broadcasters waiting until the last minute before making the conversion to the online file as required by March 1. These Quarterly Issues Programs lists are the only FCC-required documents showing how a broadcaster has met its public interest obligations to serve their communities and, as we have written many times (see, for instance, here and here), the FCC considers them to be very important, and thus have led to numerous substantial fines for broadcasters who have not met the FCC’s requirements.

TV broadcasters also need to file their Children’s Television Reports with the FCC by the 10th of the month, and place information into their public file about how they complied with the commercial limits on children’s television programming. As we have written before (see our articles here and here), these, too have been the subject of numerous FCC enforcement actions when the Commission becomes aware that the reports were not filed, or were submitted late. So be sure to timely file these reports with the FCC, and place the information about compliance with the commercial limits in your online public file by the deadline.
Continue Reading January Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – Quarterly Issues Programs Lists and Children’s Television Reports, FM Translator Window, Main Studio Rule Change and Streaming Requirements

Late yesterday, the FCC released the Public Notice setting out the instructions for the final window for AM stations to get exclusive access to FM translator stations.  This window, to be open in late January, is primarily for Class A and B AM stations that were not permitted to file in this summer’s window when Class C and D AM stations could file for new FM translators. But any AM licensee who did not file in this summer’s window, and who also did not acquire a translator last year during the period when AM licensees could acquire existing FM translators and move them up to 250 miles to rebroadcast their AM station, can also participate.

The final window will be open from January 25 through January 31.  As in this summer’s window, mutually exclusive applications filed during that window will be resolved by an auction if they cannot be resolved by settlements or engineering solutions. Resolving mutually exclusive applications can be done only by filing settlements or technical amendments that comply with the minor change rules – meaning that the amendments can only amend to different sites on the same channel, or on channels three up and three down from that initially specified, or a channel precluded from use by the initially proposed channel because of Intermediate Frequency interference. Applicants cannot amend to any vacant channel that may be available in their area.  In this summer’s window, most applicants were able to avoid mutual exclusivity with other applicants – but not all (as witnessed by the mutually exclusive groups that had until last week to settle their differences through dismissals for no more than out-of-pocket expenses or by engineering amendments – see our article here). 
Continue Reading Second Window for AM Stations to Seek New FM Translators to Open From January 25 through January 31

The FCC yesterday released a Public Notice providing the details for its settlement window for mutually exclusive applications for new FM translators to rebroadcast AM stations. The settlement window will run through November 29. The mutually-exclusive applications (applications which conflict with each other as they cannot both operate without creating prohibited interference) are listed on an appendix available here. These applications were the ones filed earlier this summer in the FCC’s first window reserved for AM station licensees to file for new FM translators to rebroadcast their AM stations as part of the FCC’s AM revitalization proceeding. The first window was for Class C and D AM stations to submit applications. Class A and B AMs, which generally have greater coverage areas, will be able to file applications in a window to open either later this year or, at this point, more likely in early 2018. The majority of applications filed in this year’s window, which are not listed on the appendix of mutually exclusive applications and which did not receive a letter from the FCC in the last few weeks identifying deficiencies in their short-form applications, are likely “singletons,” meaning that these applications are not in conflict with any other and will likely be asked to file a “long-form” application completing the FCC Form 349 before being proposed for grant at some point later this year or early next year.

As we have written, as these applications were filed in the context of a potential auction, applicants cannot talk to each other except during announced settlement windows. Now that the settlement window has been announced, mutually exclusive applicants can discuss trying to resolve the mutual exclusivity either through technical means or by the dismissal of one of the applications. Technical means could include any “minor change” in the facilities initially proposed by one or both of the mutually-exclusive applicants, e.g. frequency moves to adjacent channels, transmitter site changes, or directional antenna proposals. Dismissal of applications can only be for the reimbursement of a dismissing applicant’s legitimate expenses – the dismissing applicant cannot be paid big bucks to dismiss its application. More details of the settlement process are set out in the Public Notice, but note that the deadline for the submission of any resolution to the FCC is November 29.
Continue Reading List of Mutually Exclusive Applications for FM Translators to Rebroadcast AM Stations Released By FCC – Settlement Window Through November 29

The FCC yesterday released an online tutorial for the upcoming windows for filing for FM translators for AM stations. The first window will run from July 26 until 6 pm ET on August 2, where Class C and D AM stations that did not receive a translator in last year’s 250-mile waiver windows can file

At the NAB Convention, Chairman Pai announced that the promised windows for AM stations to apply for new FM translators would open this summer (see our article here). It now looks as if that promise is about to become a reality as on Friday the FCC added to its list of “items on circulation” a Public Notice announcing that window. Each week, the FCC updates this list of items on circulation (see the list here). These “items” are the orders that have been written by the FCC staff and are now being reviewed by the Commissioners themselves.  Once these items are reviewed and approved, often in a matter of days or a few weeks, they are released to the public. So it looks like the formal announcement on the dates for the windows will be coming very soon.

If adopted and released to the public by the FCC in the next few weeks, that announcement will likely set a date for filing for these translators – probably opening the first window about 60 days after the notice is released. Applications would then be filed in the window set for these filings. This could mean that the first window could open as early as July.  The Commission will be opening two windows. The first will be for Class C and D AM stations. Once those applications have been filed, a second window will open for Class A and B AM stations. Only AM stations that did not file for a translator relying on the 250 mile waivers available last year (see our article here) are eligible to apply for translators in these upcoming windows. Stations that acquired translators through other means can still apply for a new translator in this window. However, only one new translator will be available in this window for each AM eligible to file.
Continue Reading Announcement of FCC Window for AM Stations to File For New FM Translators Coming Very Soon

For well over a decade, since the FM translator filing window of 2003, translators have been a controversial subject. While they have become more important to the broadcast ecosystem – especially as they now rebroadcast AM stations and HD-2 channels of FM stations – their use continues to be controversial, both because of the interference to other stations that is sometimes caused by new translators, and because of their perceived conflicts with LPFM applicants. With the recent announcement from FCC Chairman Pai that the first window for applications for new translators to serve AM stations that did not benefit from last year’s 250-mile waiver window will be accepted this summer, translators will only become more important to broadcasters (see the Chairman’s comments in his NAB speech, the text of which is here). Several recent actions indicate that policy issues dealing with translators will continue to be debated for at least the foreseeable future.

Two recent filings attempt to address the issue of interference between new or relocated translators and full-power stations. Issues arise from time to time, including some high-profile disputes in major markets, where new translators create, or are alleged to create, interference to full-power stations. Under the current FCC rules, any time a new or relocated translator creates interference to any regularly used FM signal, even outside of the usually protected contour of the full-power station, the translator is required to cease operations unless the interference can be remedied. In such situations, the translator licensee acknowledges the interference and changes facilities or channels to remedy it. But there are other cases where the reported interference objections have been challenged by the translator operator, as the alleged interference will occur far from the station claiming the interference, in areas where the translator operator suggests that no reliable FM signal from the protected station could really be received.
Continue Reading FM Translators Still Contentious – New Filing Window, Suggestions for Resolving Interference Complaints and a Request for Reconsideration of Relaxation of Rules on the Location of FM Translators for AM Stations

On Friday, the FCC finally took action in its long-awaited AM revitalization rulemaking proceeding.  Friday’s order came in three parts – one adopting certain changes to FCC technical FCC rules and also adopting procedures for AM stations to acquire FM translators, a second asking for comment on a series of additional proposals looking to further change certain AM rules, and a final section a more preliminary inquiry looking at longer term policy changes to the AM rules.  While not providing everything some AM proponents may have wished for, the order does promise some immediate help for AM stations – including steps to, in the short-term, bring FM translators to many of the AM stations that feel these translators are necessary for their continued survival.  Today, we’ll look at that aspect of the order – the proposals to make available FM translators to help AM stations.

As we have written (see our articles here and here), there was a major controversy at the FCC about whether or not to open a window, restricted to AM licensees, letting them file for new FM translators, or to instead provide a process where AM stations would need to buy existing translators to provide FM service for their stations.  In Friday’s order, the FCC promised both.  Initially, in 2016, it will open a two-part window during which it will waive its minor change rules so as to allow AM licensees to buy an FM translator authorization, and “move” that translator up to 250 miles from its present location, to its AM market to operate on any available FM channel in that market.  Later in 2017, it will open a more traditional window for any AM that was not able to acquire a translator in 2016 where that AM will be able to file an application for a new FM translator. There are many details associated with each of these windows.
Continue Reading FCC Adopts AM Revitalization Order – Part 1 – The Upcoming Windows for AM Stations to Acquire FM Translators