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Translator Trial Balloon Draws Fire in AM Debate

"The underlying wound took a long time to inflict and it won’t be healed that easily"

RW readers are reacting quickly and strongly to our story yesterday about apparent FCC plans for AM translators.

We already knew that Chairman Wheeler was not keen on opening a window for AMs to apply for more FM translators. Yesterday Radio World reported that the FCC staff instead is considering a window or pre-approved waiver process during which stations could relocate FM translators up to 250 miles; and we also reported that David Honig of the MMTC said it would be a “tragic mistake” if the FCC were to limit itself to that option.

Here’s what some readers had to say.

“The simplest, fairest solution is a translator window limited to AM licensees, with a proviso that would tie any translator licenses granted out of the window to that AM station,” wrote one. “First, if an existing translator would be MX to a new translator there would be very few instances that would prevent that existing translator from being bought and moved. A limited ‘Matoon Waiver’ could handle those few instances. Second, by binding the translator license to the AM station you prevent any trafficking in these new translator permits, thus shutting down the speculators. As we saw in the last translator window. Finally, technical issues are easily handled under present rules, and contests in urban areas–where two stations seek the only feasible translator channel–could be handled by present auction procedures.”

“How about the word MERIT,” asked another reader. “Has the word merit fallen so far out of favor that nothing but money matters? This 250-mile proposal will simply create a gold rush for group owners and leave small independents twisting in the wind.”

“Would like to see the FCC do away with AM and FM, then start over with DAB,” wrote a third. “Everyone that had a station or stations would be able to keep their allotment on this band.” The reader cited plans in Norway to phase out FM radio.

“I wonder why the FCC thinks stripping rural communities of their remaining media facilities on behalf of metro-area AM broadcasters is a good idea,” asked another. “The big AM chains have been built by buying out smaller broadcasters that saw AM’s decline. Now these folks want the FCC to turn everything on its head to bail them out.” … Allowing the move of these translators up to 250 miles away will no doubt make some people a lot of money. It’s a bandage on the AM problem.”

Another echoed calls for the whole idea to go to public notice to allow wider public comment. “If the FCC is to allow the move of translators up to 250 miles, then after the move window, I want a full translator filing window for all services on all 100-channels with application caps similar to those that were worked out in the 2012 report and order (the 50/70 cap). LPFM stations need translators, rural AM stations need translators and NCEs are overdue for new translators in the reserved band.”

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