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Translator Applications Slack Off on Day 2

Filing activity expected to pick up later this week as AM stations turn to amendments and technical issues

Story has been updated to remove an earlier reference to applications that have been granted. Though the FCC did grant a number of translator applications in recent days, they were not from the new window.

Some applications continue to come in to the first FM translator modification window in the AM revitalization initiative, though the second day saw only a small fraction of the first.

While the big rush came Friday, there is plenty to keep those of us in the observer class occupied. There are hundreds of applications accepted by the Federal Communication Commission for filing, a few applications with attached amendments and at least one application that has been outright dismissed.

As of our count, more than 450 FM translator modification applications had been filed in the first two days.

“Each day of the filing period should really be considered a new window for filings,” said Tim Sawyer, owner of broadcast technical consulting and engineering firm T.Z. Sawyer Technical Consultants. “Applications that are accepted on the first day are ‘cut off’ from competing applications that are filed on following days,” he said. “More precisely, if you filed first, and a completing application is filed on the next business day, your application is protected. It’s a first-come, first serve application and you’re at the front of the line and should proceed to grant — provided everything else is okay.”

For instance: Anchor Radio in Louisville, Ky., is proposing to acquire W284AD and change the translator’s frequency and increase power from 99 W to 250 W, but remain at the same location in New Albany, Ind., to broadcast Class C 1240 AM station WLLV, which broadcasts gospel music. Like other applicants, Anchor Radio submitted several exhibits clarifying its understanding of the revitalization order guidelines, including particularities over coverage. The order reiterated that the use of FM translators is permitted on a “fill-in” basis, and that the FM translator may not be used to extend the AM station’s coverage. In FCC parlance: the 60 dBµ contour of any such translator station must be contained within the lesser of either the 2 mV/m daytime contour of the AM station, or a 25-mile radius centered at the AM transmitter site.

In its application, Anchor Radio’s clarified that the 60 dBu contour of the relocated translator will be completely contained within the 2 mV/m contour of WLLV and within that 25 mile limit. Anchor Radio also attached exhibits demonstrating that the translator would have no impermissible contour overlaps to any other facilities.

Similar applications are pending for groups like Alpha Media Licensee, which is looking to become the licensee of an FM translator in Bluefield, W.Va.

It submitted a consent letter from current licensee Seven Ranges Radio Co., which was filed on Feb. 1, as well as visual indication that the relocation of W226BO in Parkersburg, W.Va., falls within the required 250-mile move limit (shown right).

Why the rush, particularly if this first modification window extends all the way until July 28?

“The simple answer is that the output channel/frequency of the proposed translator may be the only frequency available for use in your geographic area,” Sawyer said. ”If you don’t grab the frequency first, you may be out of luck.” As a result, the hurry is on to be first in line, and more than 415 applications were filed on the first day.

Sawyer, for one, found aspects of the window eye-opening. “I’m not surprised at the need or desire for these facilities as a companion to the AM station, but seriously surprised at the money that was spent in the process of purchasing an existing translator permit,” he said. “The average asking price I think was between $20,000 to $40,000. Multiply that by 400 and you get an idea of the initial industry investment in AM radio.”

Any relocated translator will be required to stay connected to its AM station for four full years. As the AM order put it, “the relocating FM translator must rebroadcast the proposed AM primary station for a period of four years of on-air operation, exclusive of silent periods, commencing with the initiation of on-air service at the new location.”

Sawyer said, “It does prove once again that radio in general, and AM station owners in particular, can dig deep into their pockets when they see an opportunity to improve their service.”

Activity is expected to pick up again through the week, Sawyer said, though “I expect it to be largely amendments to the previously filed applications and not new applications. Those that have discovered that they are MX (mutually exclusive) with another applicant filed on the first day will be filing today [Tuesday], as well as into the rest of the week to resolve the technical conflicts between applicants if possible.”