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Wheeler: FCC Staff “Continuing to Review the Record” on AM Proposals

Responds noncommittally to congressmen’s concern over his translator blog post

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has acknowledged the concerns of two members of the House who wrote to him about a specific tidbit in the AM revitalization process. He said their views were noted but would be one of many that the commission needs to consider as it wades through the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.

His response also didn’t give much insight into when the AM revitalization effort will take the next step, which some observers have complained is taking too long.

“Commission staff is continuing to review the record in the proceeding and is developing recommendations for the full commission’s consideration,” Wheeler wrote.

Proposals in the October 2013 “Revitalization of the AM Radio Service” NPRM were designed to help AM stations better serve their audiences. One issue up for discussion involves FM translators, which can be used to expand the reach of some AMs via FM frequencies.

In a June 8 letter, Reps. Pete Olson (R) and Gene Green (D), both of Texas, had expressed concern about comments the FCC chairman made in a blog post about a proposed filing window. “Unfortunately the concerns you express regarding an AM-only filing window for FM translators have given us pause,” said their letter to the FCC chairman. “It is our understanding that demand for translators among AM stations continues to outstrip supply, particularly in locations where they are eligible for use by an AM station.”

Olsen and Green nudged the commission to promptly advance the revitalization proceeding, including the opening of an AM-only window for translators “for the benefit of our nation’s AM radio stations and their millions of listeners.” Their letter had been spurred by a blog post in which Wheeler shared concerns about the opening of such a window — whether there is an insufficient number of FM translator licenses available for AM stations, and why it might be necessary to open such a window for only one group of applicants. “If we are to assure that spectrum availability is an open opportunity, then the government shouldn’t favor one class of licensees with an exclusive spectrum opportunity unavailable to others just because the company owns a license in the AM band,” he’d said then.

In his July 15 response, Wheeler noted that the commission has proposed an exclusive filing window. However, in evaluating that, the commission has to determine whether there is still a need given the current availability of translator licenses.

“I look forward to putting forth a proposal for my fellow commissioners to consider in the near term that is based upon the record after careful consideration of all the views expressed, including yours,” he told the representatives.