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FCC May Consider Moving FM Translators

Relocation option would be intended to aid in AM revitalization efforts

WASHINGTON� AM revitalization discussions at the FCC have reportedly been reinvigorated by a new idea. The commission staff is now entertaining a new plan incorporating FM translators.

The FCC staff appears to be considering a window or pre-approved waiver process during which stations could relocate FM translators up to 250 miles. This would be in lieu of a proposal that has circulated widely to create a filing window just for AM stations to apply for FM translators.

The Media Bureau�s Peter Doyle and Holly Saurer recently met with David Honig of the Multicultural Media, Telecommunications and Internet Council, and separately, with James Winston of the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters, according to a summary letter filed by Francisco Montero of law firm Fletcher, Heald and Hildreth on behalf of MMTC and NABOB.

Doyle told Honig and Winston that key issues to be considered in analyzing this proposal would be the cost of translators, their availability and demand for them in various geographic locations, according to the summary.

�Mr. Doyle showed us two spreadsheets and a table of data from which the Media Bureau appears to have tentatively concluded that the 250-mile proposal would be beneficial to AM licensees,� the letter states. Honig urged the staff to put this information into the public record and, if the FCC doesn�t open a translator window, to issue a further NPRM on this idea.

Honig that the new proposal, done right, would be a modest step forward but expressed concern that �Without an AM-only window, I fear for the survival of about half of the minority-owned AMs, especially the small-market Class C and D standalones and daytimers.�

The MMTC/NABOB letter listed other concerns, should the idea be formally and publicly proposed. A 250-mile waiver for relocating translators �could be worse than doing nothing because it creates an opportunity for larger stations to corner the market on all the remaining translators,� which are relatively are expensive and often �out of the reach� of smaller AM stations. The result, Montero wrote in the letter, is that bidding wars would continue and translators become further out of reach to AM.

An AM Radio Revitalization Report and Order is on circulation at the commission, and the idea of a translator window has garnered more attention than any other proposal. Interested parties have filed to share opinions. Most recently, the Congressional Black Caucus sent a letter to the FCC expressing concern that the FCC may not include a translator window.

A version of this article originally appeared on Radio’s sister site, �