Pai Pushes for New FM Class C4
Text has been updated to include a link to the original Wesolowski petition and comments.
Commissioner Ajit Pai says the FCC
should get more serious about exploring the idea of creating a new FM allocation called Class
Speaking to an audience at the Radio Show here in
Nashville, Pai noted that the commission took comments more than two years ago
on this idea and received “generally positive” feedback, especially from FM
stations in rural areas and small towns. Backers have said the move could allow hundreds of Class A FM stations to raise power, while some observers have worried about the impact on the FM band's dramatically expanded translator ecosystem.
“I believe the
idea of Class C4 FM stations is worth considering. I therefore support the commission
taking the next step in the administrative process and issuing a Notice of
Proposed Rulemaking,” he said.
“An NPRM would allow us
to ask the right questions, explore the advantages and disadvantages of the
proposal, and receive the views of all stakeholders. Then, we would be in a
much better position to determine whether to implement this idea.”
Pai has used this fall Radio Show conference before as a
platform to push policy changes, notably the AM revitalization process that is
ongoing at the commission. He is widely considered a prime mover of that
initiative and was very warmly received here in the session room as a friend to the U.S. radio business, in part for his work in AM.
“But we shouldn’t neglect the FM
band, where the substantial majority of terrestrial radio listening takes
place,” Pai told the audience. “If there are ways the FCC can modernize or
update our regulations to help improve the quality of FM service, we should be
open to them.”
Class C4 FMs would have more power than
Class As but less than Class C3. “Specifically, Class C4 FM stations would be
allowed a maximum effective radiated power level of 12,000 watts from a
reference antenna height above average terrain of 100 meters,” he said.
“Under this proposal, it’s likely that hundreds of Class A FM
stations could upgrade to Class C4 FM stations. That means they could broadcast
with increased power and provide service to more Americans so long as they didn’t
impact the existing service contours of other stations.” Broadcaster Matthew Wesolowski, CEO of SSR Communications and WYAB(FM), submitted such a petition in 2013 and he has estimated that 800 stations might benefit from this change.
Pai noted that the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council
has supported the idea
, and cited the example of an FM broadcaster in Ville
Platte, La., who said that proposal would mean his station’s Cajun French and
local music programming “would reach a larger area of South Central Louisiana.”
These has been opposition expressed in the past to such an idea. Broadcast attorney John Garziglia has said that it could lead to displacement of hundreds of translators and repeated that concern this afternoon.
Reached for reaction on the Pai speech, Wesolowski described himself as ecstatic about the opportunity to present the RM-11727 FM Class C4 / 73.215 case.
“I am also incredibly grateful to Commissioner Pai and Commissioner
Clyburn, who were both willing to listen to the proposal and helped push it
forward back in 2014, as well as their respective staffs. Full implementation of the Class C4/73.215
plan would be a boon to the entire industry, as hundreds of stations would be
able to improve their service areas.”
a related matter, Pai updated the numbers in the windows for AM translators. He
said that in the first window, the FCC had received 671 applications, and as of
last week, had granted 624. So far in the second window, it has received 268
applications and granted 200. “In sum, that’s 939 applications received and 824
The FCC plans to more windows in
which AMs can apply for new FM translators. “While the commission has not yet
specified when that will take place, I will press for those windows to open in 2017.”
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