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FCC Translator Tool Is “of Limited Value”

An AM owners gives first impressions

The image shows results of a search for Crozet, Va., in the FCC’s AM Revitalization Channel Finder tool.
Larry Langford is owner of WGTO(AM) and W266BS in Cassopolis, Mich. His commentaries on radio issues such as those facing AM owners are a recurring feature on

The translator location tool now available at the FCC AM revitalization website is a nice app to pass the time, but it’s of limited value in seeking an available channel on which to apply for an FM translator.

I am not sure who came up with the formula that makes the tool work but it’s so far away from what a typical setup would be that to use this will give you a very skewed view of the landscape.

I am giving you fair warning that this tool will give you the impression that you have a bigger selection of available frequencies than you actually may have. The giveaway to this is the language in the explanation of how it works. It says in part, “the tool determines if a 10-watt non-directional FM translator operating at 10 meters above ground level would satisfy the protection requirements found in Section 74.1204 of the rules to all co-channel, first-adjacent, second-adjacent …”

Okay let’s look at that a bit. Ten watts at 30 feet? I cannot see any station actually applying for or building such a setup.

It would have been more realistic to set the power for 250 watts (the legal limit) and maybe a height of 70 meters as an average based on using an AM tower. Of course it would have been even better to have a variable height function on the tool even if the power were preset. Using the tool as is gave me the impression that I had 26 frequencies available for possible use in the clear with another 12 available with wavier! But using a commercial program such as RadioSoft showed that the number available was more like two or three.

Do not let this program lead you down a bad path. It is not even a distant substitute for a consulting engineer. I am very disappointed because I thought it could at least be used to get you in the ballpark. But this thing is so wrong that it is nothing more than a toy and good for entertainment value only.

This reminds me of the FCC program many years ago that was supposed to recalculate pre sunrise and post sunset power levels. It was so wrong that it was pulled back and killed after a week, never to be seen again.

In fairness, the FCC tool to locate a translator that qualifies for the 250 mile move limit does work well as does an earlier program already available from Cavell Mertz at But let’s hope the FCC comes up with version 2.0 real quick!

FCC’s AM Revitalization Page (includes 250-mile radius search)

FCC FM Translator Channel Finder