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FCC Proposes to Streamline FM Translator Interference Complaint System

Current process is “nasty, brutish and long,” FCC Chair Ajit Pai says

WASHINGTON — A new rulemaking proposed by the Federal Communications Commission would help to streamline and modify FM translator interference complaint and remediation procedures.

At its Open Meeting on May 10, the commission released a proposal that would provide greater certainty to full-power stations regarding complaint requirements, limit contentious factual disputes, and ensure prompt and consistent relief from actual translator interference, the FCC said in a release.

“Today the chair brings forth an appropriate solution with more effective process for handling legitimate complaints,” said Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, referencing the fact that the of licensed FM translators has increased from 1,850 in 1990 to more than 7,500 in 2017 — with more to come. “[I] hope to hear from stakeholders on whether or not this will adequately address the rise in interference concerns due to the successful [AM Revitalization] proceeding.”

Added Chairman Ajit Pai: “The current process for resolving such interference complaints can be nasty, brutish and long. That’s why we aim to streamline and expedite it,” he said. “These measures would provide more certainty to translator stations and full-service FM stations alike. And in many cases, they would eliminate the need for further remediation measures, resolving interference complaints more quickly.

The notice proposes that translators be given greater flexibility to move to another available frequency in the case of interference and that the rules be clarified and standardized when it comes to complaint requirements. The notice also suggests that proposed technical criteria should be used to assess actual and predicted interference, and that an outer distance limit should be created beyond which interference complaints would not be actionable.

In response to the notice, the National Association of Broadcasters said it is grateful the FCC is considering new policies.

“[These] will extend local radio service through the use of translators while protecting the existing service of FM broadcasters,” said NAB Executive Vice President of Communications Dennis Wharton.Comments can be left at the FCC ECFS database using Media Bureau docket number 18-119.

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