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In Canadian Border Case, Translator Power Hike Is Upheld

Backyard Broadcasting had challenged Colonial translator improvement

The FCC Audio Division has rejected a broadcaster’s request to overturn a translator power increase in southwestern New York state. The case involves interpretation of rules about translator interference contours near the Canadian border.

Backyard Broadcasting Olean asked the FCC in 2009 to reconsider the grant of a construction permit to Colonial Radio Group under which Colonial could increase power and make other changes to its FM translator in Olean, N.Y.

Backyard owns WPIG(FM) and WHDL(AM) in that community. Colonial owns WBYB(FM) in Eldred, Pa., which feeds the Olean translator.

Backyard said FCC rules require that for translators within 320 kilometers of the Canadian border, the distance to the 34 dBμ contour may not exceed 60 km in any direction. It told the FCC that the translator contour exceeds that, in nearly every direction. Colonial replied that it was not in violation because its contour does not cross the Canadian border; it pointed to similar cases where applications had been granted.

Backyard argued that its interests had been hurt because it competes in the Arbitron Metro with the translator’s primary station; it also complained that it hadn’t been able to participate in the original proceeding because the CP application was granted only a day before public notice of acceptance.

The commission accepted that Backyard could present an objection on those grounds but it denied Backyard’s main argument. “We have consistently applied the 60-kilometer limitation … only in circumstances where an FM translator station’s proposed 34 dBμ interference contour does cross the U.S.-Canada border,” the staff wrote.

“This practice results from our understanding of our treaty obligations and furthers the public interest by providing maximum flexibility for FM translators.” It cited provisions of the governing agreement with Canada, the FM Working Arrangement, and said that it has consulted with its Canadian counterpart, Industry Canada, in accordance with their mandates to cooperate in the most efficient use of FM broadcasting channels.

The FCC said the arrangement, which does not otherwise specify a geographic scope, applies only in situations where the 34 dBμ contours cross the border. It thus denied Backyard’s petition for reconsideration and issued a subsequent license to Colonial based on the CP.