When the idea of AMs using FM translators surfaced, it might have seemed a long shot.
But now the FCC has proposed rules to do just that, saying AMs need the help to ensure their “continued viability and survival.”
The commission is taking comments on a proposal to allow AMs to broadcast on FM translators as a fill-in service. In a lengthy Notice of Proposed Rule Making, the FCC discussed problems facing the “AM band’s viability” including a shift of listeners to newer mass media services; propagation characteristics that cause increased interference at night; the resulting power reductions; and increasing electromagnetic interference from power lines, electronics equipment, lighting and dimmers, electric motors, traffic signal sensors, RF from cable lines and equipment and certain kinds of medical equipment.
“In addition, some commenters have argued that the introduction of IBOC digital radio broadcast transmissions will create a new factor of interference to AM listeners, particularly to those tuned to low-power AM stations that operate on channels adjacent to those of 50 kW stations which have initiated IBOC operations,” the commission noted.
“In view of the undisputed importance of the AM service within the media landscape, we have decided to pursue the rule revisions proposed in the NAB Petition as a means to help ensure the continued viability and survival of stations in the service.”
NAB had petitioned the commission for such a rule change in 2006. Specifically, NAB proposed that AM stations be allowed to use FM translator stations to rebroadcast the AM signal, provided that no portion of the 60 dBu contour of the FM translator extend beyond the smaller of a 25-mile radius from the AM transmitter site or the 2 mV/m daytime contour of the AM.
The commission said it received more than 500 comments on the petition, with most of them supporting the proposal. Opponents said such a change could negatively impact LPFMs or believe the change would not fix the noise problems on the AM band and would actually clutter up the FM band.
Now the commission invites comments related to its proposed rules, including the issue of program origination at night over FM translators by AM daytime-only stations.
Comments to MB Docket 07-172 are due 60 days after the NPRM is published in the Federal Register.