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FCC Will Try to Ease Translator Interference Situation

Vote expected in May; Pai also updates NAB attendees on FM translator applications by AM stations

The FCC will vote next month on ways to resolve the increasing number of interference complaints apparently caused by FM translators.

Chairman Ajit Pai announced during the NAB Show that he is circulating a draft order with new rules to his fellow commissioners.

“The draft order incorporates many of the proposals supported by NAB, such as streamlining interference remediation procedures, clarifying listener complaint requirements, and making it easier for translators causing interference to change channels,” he said.

“I believe that it’ll make the interference resolution process less frustrating for full-service stations, translators, listeners, everyone.”

The problem is that there are a lot more FM translators on the air now than just a few years ago; and many more are coming.

Pai reviewed the history of the situation. He started by saying the commission’s efforts to help AM broadcasters “have been going well,” and said the commission has now granted AMs more than 1,700 CPs for new FM translators, of which at least 459 are on the air.

But while this effort, Pai said, is helping AM license holders improve programming, expand listenership and stabilize finances by adding an FM signal, there has also been “an uptick” in interference complaints from primary FM stations. So the FCC had launched a rulemaking to streamline the process for resolving complaints. Among other changes it proposed to end interference by allowing translator stations causing a problem to change to any available same-band channel as a minor change application.

Now, “It’s time to take our ideas from the drawing board to the scoreboard,” he said, and he expects the vote at the May meeting.

Pai noted that 37% of all AM stations in the United States have now applied for an FM translator.

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