At today’s FCC open meeting, the Commission adopted a Notice of Proposed Rule Making ("NPRM") to begin the process of implementing the Local Community Radio Act of 2010, passed by Congress last year, and to chart a path to the licensing of new LPFM stations. (See our earlier posting here regarding the Local Community Radio Act of 2010.)
With today’s Federal Register publication of the FCC’s recent Order amending the rules governing FM Translator stations, the date is officially set at October 1st for when AM stations can begin to rebroadcast their signals on FM translators. Beginning October 1st, the long-standing prohibition on rebroadcasting AM radio on FM translators is off the books and translators are free to pick up an AM signal. As of that date, no further authority will be required from the FCC in order for an FM translator to rebroadcast an AM station.
In fact, any existing STAs (Special Temporary Authority) previously granted by the Commission for such rebroadcasts will be canceled as of October 1st, as they will no longer be necessary. Accordingly, FM translator stations that are currently rebroadcasting an AM signal pursuant to an STA should follow the FCC’s standard procedures and simply file a letter with the FCC indicating the full power station that is being carried. Just as for the rebroadcast of an FM station, a translator stations must notify the Commission in writing of any change in the station being rebroadcast.
As we summarized earlier, the rules governing rebroadcasts of AM stations are fairly similar to those for rebroadcasting FM. The main issue with respect to AM rebroadcasts is that no portion of the 60 dBu contour of the FM translator station may extend beyond the smaller of: (a) a 25-mile radius from the AM transmitter site; or (b) the 2 mV/m daytime contour of the AM station. Further, AM broadcast licensees with Class D (daytime-only) facilities will be allowed to originate programming on such FM translators during periods when the AM station is not operating. So daytime-only AM stations can continue operating at night on a fill-in FM translator.
The FCC today adopted an Order revising its rules to permit the rebroadcast of AM radio stations on FM translator stations. A copy of the Order is available here. By this Order, the FCC formally adopted the interim policy that it has experimented with in the past year and a half since the release of the Notice of Proposed Rule Making in this proceeding. The Commission acknowledged that the interim rule has worked well and that allowing AM stations the same flexibility to use FM translators to enhance their service is in the public interest.
Per today’s Order: "Specifically, AM broadcast stations will be allowed to use currently authorized FM translator stations (i.e., those now licensed or authorized in construction permits that have not expired) to rebroadcast their AM signals, provided that no portion of the 60 dBu contour of any such FM translator station extends beyond the smaller of: (a) a 25-mile radius from the AM transmitter site; or (b) the 2 mV/m daytime contour of the AM station. In addition, AM broadcast licensees with Class D facilities will be allowed to originate programming on such FM translators during periods when their AM station is not operating."
Several things to note:
First, "currently authorized FM translators" means translator stations with licenses or permits in effect as of May 1st, 2009. As expected, there is no opportunity to seek authorization for new FM translators, and by extension, there was no need for the FCC to address the issue of priorities between LPFM stations and FM translators (which the FCC says it will address in the pending LPFM rule making). So this rule change simply allows existing FM translator stations to rebroadcast AM stations.
Just over a week ago, the FCC decided to freeze the dismissal of FM translator applications of applicants who had more than 10 applications still pending at the FCC. As we have written, the FCC had ordered all applicants in the 2003 FM Translator filing window to dismiss all but 10 of their remaining…
Federal Register publication of the Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Low Power FM (LPFM) stations and their relationship to FM translators and upgrades of full-power FM stations occurred today. This sets the comment dates in that proceeding – with comments due April 7, and replies on April 21. This proceeding looks at…
Last week, we published a note that the FCC had published the new rules on Low Power FM (LPFM) stations in the Federal Register, starting the comment period on the issues raised in the Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in that proceeding – principally addressing the relationship between LPFM stations and FM translators and improvements…
[Correction 1/24/2008- we have published a correction to this entry, here, noting that the Federal Register publication described below contained only half of the FCC’s order in its LPFM proceeding, omitting the portion seeking public comment. That section of the order will apparently be published in the Federal Register at a later date – so the February 19 comment date set out below is incorrect. Everyone has more time to prepare their comments. The actual filing date will be set in the future.]
The FCC Order establishing new rules for Low Power FM (LPFM) Stations was published in the Federal Register on January 17. This sets the date of February 19 for the filing of comments on the question of the relationship between LPFM stations and both FM translators and full-power FM stations. These comments will address two issues, (1) whether LPFM stations should remain secondary stations, subject to being knocked off the air by new full-power FM stations and (2) whether LPFM stations should get some sort of priority over some or all FM translator stations.
LPFM stations have been "secondary" stations, meaning that they could be knocked off the air when a new FM station came on the air, or when improvements to the facilities of an existing FM station were constructed, if the new full-power FM facilities would be caused interference from the existing LPFM station. As we wrote here, at its November meeting, the FCC decided that it needed more information to determine whether LPFM stations should continue to be secondary to new or improved FM stations. While not reaching a final determination on that issue, the FCC adopted temporary processing policies which essentially force the full-power stations to deal with LPFM operators in cases where such interference arises – potentially blocking improvements in the facilities of a number of FM stations.
The FCC’s proposal to allow FM translators to rebroadcast the signals of AM stations as a fill-in service has been published in the Federal Register setting the dates for comment. Comments in the proceeding will be due by January 7, 2008, with Reply Comments due on or before February 4, 2008. As we wrote…
As the Commission held its last localism hearing in Washington on Halloween night, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin’s views on how the FCC should insure that stations are responsive to their communities became somewhat clearer. In his opening statement, the Chairman outlined a set of actions that could be taken by the FCC to insure more service to the public. While emphasizing the importance of efforts to encourage new entrants into broadcast ownership, the Chairman’s proposals to add new regulatory requirements, including requiring that a station be manned during all hours of operation, may well have the result of making it more difficult for any new entrant (or for existing smaller operators) to profitably operate their stations. In addition, he has offered proposals that would seemingly require cable and satellite carriage of in-state television stations not in a system’s DMA – a proposal sure to cause concern to stations in DMAs that straddle state lines.
The Chairman’s statement includes the following proposals:
- Requirements for uniform filings by broadcasters quantifying their public service – presumably their news and information programming and the public service announcements that they provide
- Requiring that stations have manned main studios during all hours of operations (not just during business hours)
- Allowing flexibility for LPFM stations to be sold, but adopting new rules to insure that such stations are used for local programming, not something provided from a network or other programming source
- Providing television viewers the ability to get an in-state television stations on cable and satellite even if the county in which they reside is "home" to a DMA with stations in another state
- Capping the number of applications accepted from the 2003 FM translator filing window – which might result in the dismissal of hundreds of applications that have effectively been frozen for 4 years
The FCC late today released its long-awaited Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposing to allow FM translators to rebroadcast the signal of AM stations – and potentially to originate programming during those nighttime hours when a daytime-only AM station is not permitted to operate. The proposal is to permit AM stations to operate FM translators in an area that is the lesser of a circle 25 miles from their transmitter site or within their 2 mv/m daytime service contour. In proposing the changes in its rules, the Commission raised a number of questions on which it seeks public comment. These include the following:
- Is allowing the rebroadcast of AM stations on FM translators in the public interest? What would its impact be on other stations including AM and FM stations, as well as LPFM stations?
- How many translators should each AM station be permitted?
- Should daytime-only AM stations be allowed to originate programming on an FM translator during hours when they have no programming to rebroadcast?
- Should the FCC permit AM stations to begin operating translators all at once – or should the use of these translators be phased in – perhaps permitting daytimers or stations with minimal nighttime power to operate translators first for some transitional period.
- Should there be a restriction on an AM station’s use of an FM translator if the AM is co-owned with an FM station in the same market?
- Can an AM station "broker" time on a translator to provide the type of service proposed in this proceeding?
In addition to these operational issues, the FCC poses a few technical issues about these operations. These include:
- Should any extension beyond the 2 mv/m contour be permitted? If so, how much and in what circumstances?
- How should the 2 mv/m contour be calculated – using standard FCC predictions, or allowing the measurement of the actual reach of that signal?
- Should the 25 mile zone be extended to 35 miles in Zone II (essentially the less populated areas of the country)?
Comments on the Notice will be due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register, with replies due 30 days later.