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Massachusetts FM Translator Nixed After Interference Concerns

Emmanuel Communications sought authorization to construct a cross-service FM translator for its Worcester AM station

An FM translator station in Massachusetts won’t be built after the Media Bureau dismissed an appeal because of complaints of interference and a subsequent reconsideration request that fell outside a 30-day window of time.

In 2017, Emmanuel Communications filed an application permit seeking authorization to construct a cross-service FM translator station to rebroadcast station WNEB(AM) in Worcester, Mass.

Soon after, a petition to deny was filed by Plymouth Rock Broadcasting Co. who argued that the proposed translator would cause interference to listeners of one of its stations, WPLM(FM) in Plymouth. Emmanuel responded to say that the anticipated interference was minimal and that displacement relief would be the best remedy for that single listener. After all, argued Emmanuel, authorizing this translator would help further the commission’s long-standing goal of revitalizing the AM radio service.

But 2018, the Media Bureau found that the interference to the listener of WPLM(FM) would be in violation of FCC Rules. The bureau thus dismissed the permit application.

Emmanuel responded with a Petition for Reconsideration saying that the bureau was in error and it proposed two alternatives to dismissal: one, waiving a section of the rules and granting the permit application (with the understanding that Emmanuel would submit a modification application proposing displacement relief if any actual interference should occur); and secondly, allowing the permit application to remain pending while Emmanuel negotiated an agreement with Plymouth Rock.

But the bureau demurred and said that the rules expressly prohibit the filing of contingent applications for new stations and that Emmanuel had not demonstrated that waiver of the rules was justified. The Media Bureau also rejected Emmanuel’s argument that it should reinstate the application to allow it to negotiate an agreement with Plymouth Rock.

The bureau also reminded Emmanuel that it could have amended its permit application while it was pending to correct the interference violation — or even could have filed a corrective amendment after the dismissal of the application. But the licensee did not do so within the specific time period.

Emmanuel filed another application for review saying the bureau was mistaken in its ruling, saying the interference rules violation is “a processing obstacle” but not a true technical defect. The licensee says the amendments proposed by the bureau would not have been successful and it argues that the bureau failed to recognize the “policy ramifications of failing to exercise its waiver authority.”

In this case, Emmanuel said, the bureau’s decision subverts the policy objectives that informed the AM revitalization proceeding. Emmanuel took the next step of filing an amendment to its permit application and proposed to operate the translator at minimal power and said it would seek “displacement relief” upon grant of the application.

But when the commission reviewed the Media Bureau’s actions and Emmanuel’s application for review, it found that Emmanuel’s evolving arguments — including the waiver and the amendment — were untimely. The commission also dismissed Emmanuel’s assertion that one of the listener affidavits from Plymouth was unacceptably ambiguous.

As a result, the commission dismissed both the application and request for review.

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