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FCC Will Consider Creating a New FM Class

Pai says NPRM will explore idea of Class C4; “mom and pops” said to benefit

The FCC Media Bureau is circulating a notice of proposed rulemaking on whether to create a new class of FM radio stations in the United States.

Chairman Ajit Pai made the announcement at MMTC’s annual Broadband and Social Justice Summit.

“This reform could allow hundreds of Class A FM stations to broadcast with increased power,” he said, noting that MMTC in the past has supported the idea as small and minority-owned stations gain access to capital. “This idea has been sitting around for a while — long before I got into this position,” Pai said, according to his prepared remarks.

[Read a commentary on C4 and translators.]

The NPRM seeks public input on whether to change the rules to create Class C4.

The idea is one that has been pushed by broadcaster Matt Wesolowski, CEO of SSR Communications Inc., licensee of WYAB(FM) in Flora, Miss., and by David Honig, president emeritus and senior advisor of the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council and president of MMTC Media and Telecom Brokers. They were co-petitioners for the C4 FM allocation.

They’ve argued in favor of a new 12 kW “C4 Class” FM allocation, saying that the attention paid in recent years to LPFMs, FM translators and AM revitalization has not done much to benefit smaller commercial FM operations. “Many of the remaining ‘mom and pop’ operations are Class A FM stations dedicated to their communities and oftentimes ‘just barely paying the bills,’” they wrote in a Radio World commentary in 2016.

Asked for reaction today to the NPRM, Wesolowski wrote in an email, “I’m glad that there are lots of Radio World readers at the FCC. I am truly grateful to everyone involved in this effort and look forward to the day when Class A FM stations are able to upgrade in power.” He said the chairman’s announcement was “particularly satisfying” in that it came out of the MMTC Broadband and Social Justice event; he described Honig and MMTC as key to getting the proposal to this point.