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FCC Has Already Granted 140+ CPs in New AM Window

Agency moving with expediency on FM translators

When a federal government agency is labeled “amazing” for acting with expediency, it’s notable.

That sentiment has been expressed by several industry insiders as the Federal Communications Commission works through hundreds of FM translator applications. The agency began accepting applications from licensees of Class C and D AM stations in late January.

As of Friday, a total of 462 applications have been filed relating to the 250-mile modification filing window. Of that total, 142 applicants have been granted construction permits already, and six have been dismissed.

“Clearly they are doing their best to grant what they can as soon as possible,” said radio engineering consultant Tim Sawyer. ”I’m pleased that they are processing the applications at this accelerated pace, and not granting just the easy ones. … That’s very encouraging. It’s really a very good effort by the commission staff to process the applications in a very timely manner.”

Examples abound of the FCC’s efforts. Take Mountain Community Translators, which applied to relocate FM translator station K291CI in Baker, Calif., to become a fill-in translator for KASA(AM) in Phoenix. Despite the transfer from one state to another, the move is still within the 250-mile limit — exactly 246 miles, the station states in its application. Mountain Community Translators filed on Jan. 29; the CP was granted on Feb. 18.

The same happy fate transpired for Alpine Broadcasting Corp. of Liberty, Mo., which submitted an application to modify FM translator K274CF in Monroe City, Mo., to rebroadcast KCXL(AM), a Class D station in Kansas City.The licensee, which included a a channel study with its application, applied Feb. 1; its application was approved 10 days later.

“I think the FCC is working as fast as they can on these,” said Michelle Bradley, founder of the LPFM advocacy group REC Networks.

That includes a half dozen dismissals, too. Anderson Radio Broadcasting submitted for a 250-mile mod on Feb. 1; it was dismissed two days later because it proposed to rebroadcast a Class B AM — in this case, KERR in Polson, Mont. The FCC has said all along it will dismiss any application in this window that proposes to rebroadcast a Class A or Class B station; those classes will have a chance later.

Others dismissals have been less straightforward. An application by Screen Door Broadcasting on Feb. 2 proposed to modify FM translator K231CKto rebroadcast AM station KOFO. Screen Door went so far as to submit a comprehensive technical amendment three days later that demonstrates that the contour of the proposed FM translator will be contained within both the 2 mV/m daytime contour of KOFO, and within a 25-mile radius centered at the transmitter site of KOFO.

But alas, it was not to be. In a letter on Feb. 12, the Media Bureau said that an engineering study found that the modified translator would involve prohibited overlap of predicted field strength contours, in this case, nearby FM station KQRC. The application was dismissed; and as the FCC has noted in previous public notices, an applicant is barred from reapplying in future rounds.

Sawyer said the FCC has been moving expediently on many applications, even in the face of a number of complicated grants that have involved technical waiver requests for second- and third-adjacent channel interference and protection contours.

Take North Texas Radio Group, which applied to modify an FM translator on Jan. 29, submitted comprehensive technical and engineering exhibits as part of its original application, and then submitted an amendment on Feb. 4 to correct an error in the antenna site coordinates for FM translator K300BD, which will be used to rebroadcast KMAD in Madill, Okla. The commission has not yet granted or denied the application.

This window will be open until summer, but is the rush to file over? “There might be a mini flurry of activity of new filings at the end of July when this window closes, with last-minute deals being made,” Sawyer said.

But the next part of the modification window will certainly be interesting, he said. “What’s still available for sale, and at what prices? And more importantly is there still spectrum available?” Sawyer asked.