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FCC Reverses CP Grant for Lake Country

Agency agrees with Saga that an FM translator permit was granted in error

There’s an interesting translator hop case out of the FCC this week in which the agency’s final decision rested on a topography map.

Saga Communications protested when another broadcaster wanted to move an FM translator in New York. The FCC has now agreed with Saga and rescinded the construction permit for the translator belonging to Lake Country Broadcasting.

The situation began in 2008 when the FCC granted the CP to Lake so the broadcaster could modify a translator. Lake wanted to move the translator’s community of license and transmitting antenna from Branchport, N.Y. to Dundee and Penn Yan, N.Y. The commission said in its decision the CP application was the latest in a series of translator hops moving the translator to various sites in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York.

Saga objected, saying the FCC made a mistake when it granted the Lake translator CP.

Saga said granting the CP would cause prohibited overlap with the protected contour of its WYXL(FM), Ithaca, N.Y. Saga explained it didn’t take part earlier in the proceeding because of the short three-day time frame between the public notice about the CP application and when it was granted.

Lake Country argued that since there hadn’t been any listener complaints of interference its translator should be allowed to continue operating.

The commission won’t accept an application for an FM translator if the proposed operation involves overlap of specified predicted field contours with any other station, unless the applicant demonstrates that no actual interference will occur due to intervening terrain, lack of population, or other factors. In its application, Lake alleged there was no population within the proposed overlap area of its translator and WYXL(FM). Lake provided a topographic map that displays no structures or roads within the overlap area. The map appears to be a reprint of the 1942 United States Geologic Survey topographical series, according to the commission.

To refute Lake Country’s “lack of population” claim, Saga submitted a recent copy of a USGS “U.S. Topo” series aerial topographic image that shows several buildings within the overlap area.

The FCC this week said it didn’t have Saga’s map when the Media Bureau originally granted the FM translator CP for Lake and agrees it made an error. The agency also refuted Lake’s argument that a defective CP can be fixed later by moving the violating facilities to a rule-compliant site. “Such a policy would potentially waste staff resources and undermine our application processing rules by encouraging applicants to file defective applications or build violating facilities with the expectation that such defect or violation could be rectified through a modification application,” said Audio Division Chief Peter Doyle in the decision.

The commission not only rescinded Lake’s CP application for the translator, but also dismissed its CP application as well as Lake’s modification and license application. Now that the case has been finalized, the agency dismissed Saga’s complaint as moot.