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FCC to Take Comments on FM Translator Petition

Aztec Capital Partners raised the issue

We told you earlier about a petition for rulemaking filed by the owner of an FM translator seeking to modify rules in order to protect fill-in translators against interference complaints from distant full-power radio stations. Now the FCC says it will accept comments on the issue.

Aztec Capital Partners in Philadelphia had asked for a “rebalancing of the equities in the FM translator rules” so that radio service provided by fill-in translators is not “forestalled or removed by distant radio stations far outside” a local radio market.

Interested persons may file statements opposing or supporting the Petition for Rulemaking (RM-11786) within 30 days, according to a public notice.

Aztec Capital wants to rebroadcast its Spanish-language programming from WHAT(AM) on a fill-in translator at 92.1 MHz. However, a complaint lodged by Clear Communications Inc. alleged potential interference with full-power Class A FM station WVLT on the same frequency in southern New Jersey, approximately 50 miles away, according to the petitioner.

“Clear Communications is attempting to extend its signal into the Philadelphia metro area claiming listeners far outside its community of license and service area. These filings allege interference to at most several dozen purported distant listeners in the Philadelphia metro area,” Aztec Capital wrote.

It requested the FCC to consider a rulemaking to modify Sections 74.1203 and 74.1204 of the FM translator rules so that interference complaints by distant full-power radio stations against a fill-in translator from outside a local radio market cannot result in translator being removed from the air.

FM translators are considered secondary services and typically are forced to leave the air until interference complaints with full-time stations can be resolved.

Aztec said in its petition it believes local radio service provided by an FM translator should not be removed from the air by the FCC unless there is a “significant public interest reason to do so, and the public would be significantly served by such a loss of service.”

Art Camiolo, general manager of El Zol Media, a subsidiary of Aztec Capital Partners, told Radio World last week that listeners of a local FM translator deserve some consideration when the FCC looks into interference complaints. “We want to serve the local Latino audience in Philadelphia. We are not saying full-power stations don’t deserve protection, but there really should be some relief for the owners of FM translators targeted by distant owners claiming interference,” Camiolo said, “especially when our goal is the local revitalization of radio.”

The FCC declined comment on the latest developments, saying it doesn’t comment on current rulemaking procedures.

There are now approximately 7,500 FM translators and boosters licensed in the United States, according to the FCC data, the vast majority of which are translators. Twenty years ago this month, there were fewer than 2,800.