translators for AM radio

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?

In recent years, FM translators have become more and more important to broadcasters, as they are being used to rebroadcast AM stations and HD-2 channels, giving the programming broadcast on these over-the-air signals new outlets in many markets.  However, there have been some bumps in the road to the introduction of these new outlets.  These bumps have arisen both from attempts to move these translators significant distances without observing all the obligations of FCC rules and policies, and in connection with translator stations that have started operations only to find that there were interference complaints from a broadcaster on an adjacent channel in some nearby market. So, while translator stations have provided many opportunities to broadcasters, those looking at translators to rebroadcast one of their signals should be aware of these potential pitfalls that have arisen in a few cases.

Perhaps the worst case involved an translator licensee in Florida, who was attempting to move translators from the Florida Keys into the Miami area.  Under current rules, an FM translator licensee can only move a translator from one location to another if the current coverage of the translator overlaps with the proposed coverage area of that station, unless the applicant waits for an infrequent translator window (the last was held in 2003) where the application can file a "major change" and would be subject to competing applications, .  Because of this requirement, it sometimes it takes multiple "hops" to move a translator from one location to another where someone might want to use it to rebroadcast an AM station or an HD-2 signal.  At each hop, the translator licensee must build the station, get it licensed, and then file to move to the next location until it is ultimately located at its desired location.  Each hop can take months to process by the FCC, to build and operate.  The recent case shows the problems that can arise in connection with these hops if an applicant attempts to cut corners.Continue Reading The Bumpy Road of Using FM Translators to Rebroadcast AM Stations or HD-2 Channels

Two long awaited broadcast items seem to be missing in action at the FCC. Both the final rules on digital radio ("HD radio") and the Commission’s Notice of Proposed rulemaking on using FM translators to fill in gaps of the signals of AM stations, while expected quite a while ago, have still not been released by the FCC. The digital radio item, adopting rules on digital radio, eliminating the need to file for experimental authority for multi-channel FM operations and allowing AM stations to operate digitally at night, was adopted by the FCC at its meeting in March, yet the final text of the decision still hasn’t been released.  As the text has not been released, the effective date of the new rules has not been set.  Those AM stations ready to kick on their nighttime digital operations continue to wait.

As we explained in our previous posting on this matter, here, the digital radio order also contains a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, addressing issues such as the public interest obligations of broadcasters on their multicast digital channels. That was one of the items that was supposedly delayed the action that finally occurred at the March meeting, and perhaps it is delaying the release of the text of the order in this proceedingContinue Reading Radio Items Missing In Action at the FCC