For a second consecutive year the Federal Communications Commission is opening a pair of filing windows that will allow AM broadcasters to secure an FM translator upon which to simulcast their station. The first window will open July 26.
Similar to last year’s two-window process, the first window opening this year will be for Class C and D AM stations—those with the least power or nonexistent nighttime service. After applicants for the first window have had an opportunity to resolve competing applications either through settlements or technical amendments, the FCC says it will then announce the dates for the second translator window for Class A and B stations. In both windows any competing bids for a translator that can’t be resolved will go to the now-standard competitive bidding process.
The caveat is this year’s two windows are only for AM owners who didn’t file for a translator relying on the relaxed 250-mile relocation rules last year.
“We look forward to the opening of the new FM translator auction filing windows for cross-service translators rebroadcasting AM stations, as we continue to consider and implement further means by which to improve and preserve the vitally important AM broadcast service,” the FCC said in its announcement. Revealing the move won the unanimous backing of the three commissioners during an “on circulation” vote this week.
The Media Bureau and Wireless Telecommunications Bureau will release detailed instructions and information regarding the filing windows in the coming weeks. The FCC received nearly 1,100 applications during last year’s windows, which allowed stations to move a translator up to 250 miles—and it granted nearly 95% of the requests. During his address to the NAB Show in April, FCC chief Ajit Pai also said several other proposals that are elements of the FCC’s AM revitalization initiative are still pending and he hopes they’ll be able to move on some of those “soon.”
The upcoming FM translator windows are just two of several moving parts on the translator front. The FCC has streamlined regulations governing siting an AM’s sister FM translator. Like in the previous two windows, the distance of a jump notwithstanding, the move is now considered a “minor modification” by the Media Bureau as long as the translator remains within 250 miles of its original location before any moves were made during last year’s windows. In other words, it will allow a combination of two separate hops to total up to 250 miles. The new rules do not, however, give any broadcaster the ability to take translators from a location 250 miles away and move them to the AM’s service area now. Instead, it only applies to translators that were already moved last year.
A record number of FM translators are already filling the airwaves. The FCC says 200 additional signals were licensed during the first quarter with a record 7,453 translators licensed as of March 31, which was a 13% increase compared to a year earlier.