Translator Hopping Defined
FCC Media Bureau Chief Peter Doyle
defined what constitutes FM “translator hopping” during a regulatory session at
the recent Radio Show.
During a discussion of the commission’s
tiered, market-based approach to determine how much spectrum remains in the top
150 markets for new low-power FMs and FM translators, Doyle said “some
licensees have decided to walk their translators across other states.” That
ignores the commission rule that says a translator needs to be within the
station’s 60 dB contour, he said.
The agency would not grant an
application to move a translator in a market in which there’s little to no
remaining spectrum for LPFMs, he said, under the proposed approach.
Doyle had touched on serial translator
hopping at last year’s radio show but got deeper into the discussion this time.
Asked by an attorney in the audience to define the criteria for such a
“hopper,” Doyle said: “It’s not a subtle pattern. [It’s] where a licensee files
a translator license application, and one day later files to go silent, and the
next week files a modification application.”
And switching gears, a collective groan
came from attendees when moderator Kathy Kirby of Wiley, Rein suggested the
final topic for the regulatory session — birds vs. towers.
According to environmental groups “50
million birds may be ready to die on your doorstep,” joked Howard Weiss of
Fletcher Heald & Hildreth. In the issue that has stretched over several
years, environmentalists say broadcast towers kill birds; broadcasters dispute
The Wireless Bureau is reviewing
publicly filed comments on the issue, specifically a compromise reached between
broadcasters and environmental groups involving different levels of bird kill
prevention measures depending on tower height. To build towers more than 450
feet high, “you’ll get caught up in an environmental assessment and the FCC
will have to seek notice on your construction proposal,” requiring a lot more
time to go through the process, he said. The process isn’t as involved for
towers between 450 to 350 feet tall, and for smaller towers.
The issue is, “the burden of proof has
shifted from ‘birders’ who were required to show there was a problem to
the FCC.” Now, broadcasters would be required to show there’s not a
problem, said Weiss, who figures some sound or lighting changes may be the
solution. How else are you going to convince environmentalists that it works,
he asked rhetorically, “other than to just not build it.”
For a broadcaster who’s spent lots of money in a project to
get a station on the air the issue “is going to be a difficult problem,” for
some, he predicts.