Keeping Tabs on Translator Logistics
As the industry continues to take
advantage of the 250-mile FM translator move window for AM stations opened by
the Federal Communications Commission, questions begin to swirl about next
steps in the process, the anticipated 2017 AM-exclusive FM translator auction
Will translator licensees and permittees
find it a challenge to get a moved translator authorization built ahead of the
next round of applications? What if
there are delays or things don’t move according to plan? Most importantly, how
likely is it that the FM translator channels abandoned in moves under the
250-mile window will be available for other AM stations in the anticipated 2017
auction filing window?
Radio World reached out to
attorney and regulatory expert John Garziglia, a partner with Womble Carlyle
Sandridge & Rice, who shared his thoughts about the issue of the former
channels of moved FM translators remaining protected.
begin, it must be understood that there are two categories of 250-mile window
FM translator moves, he said. The first category is a move of a licensed
already-built FM translator.
“When a licensed
already-built FM translator is moved under the FCC’s 250-mile policies, the
construction permit gives a three-year time period to construct,” Garziglia
said. “The licensed facility which will be abandoned remains protected while
the newly-granted construction permit is outstanding and un-built.
“Upon the completion of construction under the construction
permit, a license application must be filed,” he continued. “Upon a grant of
the license application for the modified facility for a licensed FM translator,
the previously licensed abandoned site goes away and is no longer an issue.”
The second category is a move of an un-built
never-licensed FM translator.
never-licensed FM translator is granted a move under the FCC’s 250-mile
policies, Garziglia said, that translator facility immediately moves to the new
location in the commission database. And important to note: The previous
abandoned location is no longer protected.
said, under a 250-mile move in the first category of a licensed already-built
FM translator, the licensee of that translator could take up to three years to
construct and move. During that time, both the licensed and the
construction permit facility would be protected, he said — thus clearly raising
the issue of former FM translator facilities possibly remaining protected
during the 2017.
But, Garziglia pointed out,
during the 250-mile window, many of the moves filed were for the second
category of un-built never-licensed FM translators which do not have the
previous site protected for any amount of time.
There’s also another time element to consider. For licensees in the first
category of licensed already-built FM translators, the time element to pay
attention to is the one-year time period that an FM translator can be off the
air prior to losing its license.
In many of these
250-mile moves of licensed already-built FM translators, Garziglia said, the FM
translator is taken off the air upon its acquisition — thus the clock begins to
wind down on the one-year time period for the translator to return to the air
or lose its license.
“That one-year time period,
not the three-year construction permit time period, will be the decisive time
element for this first category of FM translators, meaning that it is likely
that these translators will be moved and licensed at new sites, and the
previous abandoned sites no longer protected, by mid-2017,” Garziglia said.
Therefore, while there may be some FM translators
protected at both existing sites and new sites when the 2017 FM translator
auction window for AM stations opens, Garziglia does not expect this to be a
large number. He notes a final consideration: In many of the rural areas
that FM translators were moved from, there are a multitude of otherwise available
FM translator frequencies. Therefore, even if there should be one frequency
remaining blocked in these rural areas, there likely will be alternative FM
translator channels available.
The current 250-mile translator window for moving FM
translators to carry AM stations now remains opens through Oct. 31 for Class A,
B, C and D AM stations. There is no indication yet from the FCC when the 2017
AM-exclusive FM translator auction window will open.
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