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FCC Cites AM Revitalization Rules When Denying Waiver Request

Virginia broadcaster listed primary AM station that was already named on earlier translator application

The fine print strikes again.

The Federal Communications Commission denied a media company’s request to acquire a cross-service FM translator because — due to a deal-breaker clause hidden in the fine print — the AM station it listed on its FM translator application had already been listed in an earlier filing window.

Chesapeake-Portsmouth Broadcasting Corp. was looking to build a new cross-service FM translator station to rebroadcast WCPK(AM) as part of the FM Translator Auction 100 filing window.

[Read: Time for Translator Rules Overhaul?]

But here’s where it pays to read the fine print: One of the key rules within the FCC’s AM Revitalization proceeding was that a primary AM station must not have been listened on another application during a different AM Revitalization modification window. To recap, there were four windows in which AM licensees could acquire a cross-service FM translator — the first two windows allowed a licensee to acquire and relocate a nonreserved band FM translator station up to 250 miles; the second two windows (Auction 99 and Auction 100) allowed an AM licensee to apply for a new cross-service FM translator station that would be permanently linked to one primary AM station.

The kicker was that any applicant whose AM station was listed as the primary station in an earlier application window would be ineligible to file an application specifying the same AM station in the Auction 100 window.

Chesapeake, however, sought a waiver of the filing eligibility requirements. It said it had good cause to request a waiver because the previous construction permit was cancelled outright by Delmarva Educational Association (a group owned by Chesapeake’s owner).

Another broadcaster subsequently chimed in. MHR License LLC, who also filed an Auction 100 application, filed a petition to dismiss Chesapeake’s waiver. Based on an engineering review, both MHR’s and Chesapeake’s FM translator proposals were determined to be mutually exclusive with one another.

Yet the FCC ultimately denied Chesapeake’s request for waiver.

“The commission made clear that AM stations were allowed to participate in one and only one of the two modification or two auction windows,” the Media Bureau said. “Here, the designation of WCPK on a second application violated the threshold eligibility requirement.”

As a result, the FCC denied Chesapeake’s waiver request and dismissed its application for a new FM translator station.

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