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Montero: AM Revitalization Losing Steam?

Broadcast attorney takes note of recent prices in translator market

“Contrary to Chairman Wheeler’s view … there are not enough translators to meet the needs of AM stations and their listeners.” So says broadcast attorney Frank Montero in a post on the website of Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth.

Montero’s overall theme is that optimism over AM revitalization seems to have appeared to come “screeching to a halt.” He recounts the reasons AMs have been so interested in FM translators and the obstacles to their wider use. But despite earlier enthusiasm over helping AM, Montero continued, “time passed and no AM revitalization order was adopted” and no translator filing window opened. At the same time, he said, the commission was “working aggressively” to process 2,800 applications for LPFMs.

Then this spring, AM broadcasters were “confused and surprised” by Chairman Wheeler’s expressed doubts about expanding the use of FM translators for AM stations, Montero wrote. By his calculation, 893 AM stations “have zero chance to obtain an eligible FM translator,” and although the figures would improve a bit if you count translators that could be moved under a Mattoon waiver, “the FCC has now cracked down on these waivers in recent months, making it increasingly difficult for AM stations to find a useable translator.”

Montero notes a trend of “skyrocketing” prices for translators, and said any FCC decision to not open an AM-only window “will push translator prices even further out of reach for AM broadcasters.” He believes the chairman’s concerns about the exclusivity of an AM-only translator window are unfounded. “An AM-only window is nothing more than AM broadcasters finally reaching the front of the queue.” His original post appeared in Radio and Television Business Report.

Read the post.