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FM Translator Operators Press FCC for Waivers

Three licensees say one-to-a market cap is too strict

Three regional noncommercial FM broadcasters — Hope Christian Church of Marlton, Marlton, N.J., Bridgelight, Old Bridge, N.J. and Calvary Chapel of the Finger Lakes, Farmington, N.Y. — are asking the FCC to rethink its one-to-a-market limitation on translator applications.

In a Petition for Partial Reconsideration filed this week with the commission, the licensees say the limitation announced recently by the agency as it figures out how to process pending FM translator applications as well as new applications for low-power FMs will effectively block regional expansion in the name of preventing trafficking in translator authorizations.

All the licensees operate several regional noncommercial FMs as well as FM translators. They have several pending FM translator applications; Hope has 45, Bridgelight has 17 and CCFL has 17.

They call the new one-to-a market cap on processing FM translator applications counterproductive and ask the commission to adopt waiver procedures for the single application limit. A waiver policy, say the licensees, would help stop the abuses the cap is intended to address while allowing parties to go forward with more than one translator application in a market where anti-trafficking is not implicated and where there would not be a negative impact on future LPFM allocations, argue the broadcasters in comments filed to the commission this week.

A waiver policy is more workable and better serves the purposes of implementing the Local Community Radio Act than the FCC’s wholesale dismissal policy, according to the licensees, who propose criteria for a waiver policy that includes “the 60 dBu contour of the translator application would not overlap with the 60 dBu contour of any commonly-controlled application.”

This particular waiver condition satisfies the commission’s concern about multiple filers for the same community and issues of spectrum efficiency, believe the broadcasters.

The commission recently announced new processing guidelines for some 6,000 pending FM translator applications, imposing a national cap of 50 applications per one entity nationwide and a local cap of one application per company per market. The agency wants to eliminate processing of multiple applications by a single applicant for a single market because it deems such applications as speculative and likely to hinder the auction process.

“The one application per market cap unfairly harms those local and regional applicants that might have filed applications in a limited number of markets for the precise purpose of reaching widely separated communities in a geographically far-flung market,” argue the broadcasters.

Initial comments to docket 99-25 were due earlier in the week and replies are due by May 21.