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Letters Encapsulate Tensions Over AM Revitalization Issues

Two broadcasters press FCC to consider the potential consequences of eliminating the AM-only filing window for FM translators

As the commission considers its options with AM revitalization, two broadcasters have written letters that encapsulate the tensions playing out over access to, and the price of, FM translators.

The owner of an AM station in in Milford, Mass., asked the FCC to consider the benefits of keeping an AM-only filing window for FM translators. Without such a window, there is no realistic way for the station to obtain a translator, said Thomas McAuliffe II, president of First Class Radio Corp., which owns WMRC(AM).

“In fact, these translators themselves are very likely valued higher than the entire WMRC license,” he wrote to the commission. Even though there are three commercial translators within eligible distance to the WMRC tower, all three are owned by commercial operators. “Realistically, none of these three translators will ever be available for sale, and even if they were, the price would be prohibitively expensive.”

In his letter McAuliffe shared a list of public service causes WRMC has undertaken over the last five decades in its commitment to the community and its adherence to the FCC’s mandate to serve in the public’s interest. To continue to provide this level of service, the station needs an FM translator to deliver programming to a wider audience. “WMRC has proven again and again that it has a tremendous local following but WMRC could do so much more with a translator,” he said.

A day later, a letter from a Minnesota AM broadcaster covered similar themes, saying that the FCC’s recent crackdown on relocating translators for AM stations have left the prospects dim for improving station KASM’s signal reach.

“We have been waiting patiently for the FCC to open a filing window for FM translators for more than a year, and were extremely frustrated to learn recently that the FCC may not open such a window after all,” wrote Dennis Carpenter, CEO of StarCom and owner of KASM(AM) in Albany, Minn. With a translator, the station’s signal would reach father during crucial morning hours.

“AM radio needs regulatory help!,” Carpenter wrote, asking the FCC to consider several changes, including giving AM stations the authority to purchase and move an LPFM station and turn it into a translator.

“We recognize a translator reaches a small area but for KASM it would be life-changing,” Carpenter said. “At reduced power KASM broadcasts with only 21 watts of power; it’s challenging to serve the community of license. An FM translator would provide needed relief for listeners to hear the station both pre/post sunset, during thunderstorms and while at home and work.”

Similar concerns about the closing of the AM-only filing window were recently shared by Texas Reps. Pete Olson (R) and Gene Green (D) in a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, on which Radio World has reported.

Noting the timing of the letters, Radio World asked McAuliffe if stations were working together on this issue. He said he is not aware of “any concentrated effort, but certainly wanted to make my feeling know about the importance of a translator window for AM stations. It’s simply crucial to our future.”