The recent filing window for new translators was deeply flawed.
Instead of fulfilling its role as regulator of broadcast spectrum, the FCC created a Wild, Wild West free-for-all that resulted in more than 10,000 applications for new translators. A couple of organizations filed for thousands of individual translators each.
The majority of these translator applications were mutually exclusive, tying up a huge number of valuable channels at the eternally court-challenged commission. Additionally, because only a rudimentary technical filing was required, nuisance applications with no technical merit were allowed to block legitimate proposals.
The FCC should learn from this mess and return to a system that requires applications to be technically complete and accurate before filing. Defective applications should be rejected and not allowed for re-filing in that window.
The FCC also should strictly enforce the requirement that all translators be able to receive an off-air signal from the station being translated. Translators are intended to extend the coverage of a local station; they are not intended to be used to develop a national radio network. A reasonable standard could be developed to prevent applications that proposed translating unbuilt stations (such as construction permits) or stations located many states away.
Finally, the FCC should consider a reasonable numerical limit on applications from individual stations to reduce the number of “nuisance” filings only designed to block legitimate users (and potentially extort payments). No public good is served by allowing such gamesmanship to continue; filing windows were supposed to eliminate this parasitic behavior.
Let’s hope the commission realizes the problems with the translator process and does not allow it to become a precedent for future filing windows.