You may remember a few years ago, the FCC cracked down on “serial modifications” of FM translators to move them from rural to more urban areas (see, for instance, the cases about which we wrote here and here), considering such moves an abuse of process. In a decision released earlier this week, it looks like the FCC’s Audio Division may be backing away from that policy. In that decision, the FCC approved an application for a move of a translator into Chicago as the 4th hop from the translator’s original site in rural Illinois.
In the old decisions, the FCC had looked at instances where operators tried to move translators to big markets through multiple minor change applications – accomplishing through these “hops” what they normally could not do except during a major change window for translator applications – something that has not happened for since 2003. These old decisions deemed it an abuse of process to accomplish through multiple steps what an applicant could not do through a single application, especially when the applicant evidenced no intent to serve the public at any of these interim locations. In these cases, the applicant had often constructed on a temporary basis at a hop location, only to take the translator off the air after just a few days of operation (often dismantling the tower too). The decision this week looked at a slightly different situation and found that the multiple hops into Chicago were permissible – and set out criteria for determining whether such hops were permissible or not.