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Clyburn Says Translator Window Can Wait

In a single day, three commissioners spoke out on AM revitalization; Clyburn cites “incendiary and misleading” rhetoric

The commissioner who launched the AM revitalization NPRM two years ago — when she was acting chairwoman — has changed course on the necessity of adding an exclusive window for AM stations to apply for FM translators, at least right away. This raises further questions about the prospects of such a window, given opposition by the chairman.

Commissioner Mignon Clyburn last week rescinded her support for immediate implementation of an exclusive window as part of the pending AM radio order. Her stance is notable in part because she’s the one who put the notice of proposed rulemaking onto the commission’s to-do list while she was acting chair. Clyburn wrote that she felt compelled to make her views clear due to “incendiary and misleading” comments surrounding AM revitalization.

On the day Clyburn spoke up, Commissioner Ajit Pai called on all commissioners to support the adoption of an AM-only translator window. Meanwhile, at the NAB Radio Show, Commissioner Michael O’Rielly expressed his support too.

Clyburn said that while it would be “sound policy” to open such a window, it would not provide timely relief to AM broadcasters, who would have to wait until 2017 to take advantage. Rather, it makes more sense to revisit the proposal closer to the time of the commission’s incentive auction.

More immediate relief, she said, can come from FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposal to offer AM broadcasters the opportunity to move a translator via the 250-mile waiver. “I believe that it would increase the availability of translators for AM broadcasters,” she wrote in an open letter released on Oct. 1. She stressed that adoption of a relocation waiver does not foreclose the possibility of opening an AM-only translator window in the future. “I hope that in this case … my colleagues will not allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good.”

The AM revitalization order is on circulation at the commission.