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Wheeler Still Sees FM Translators as AM Help

Pledges pirate enforcement won’t lag despite field office closings

“I’ve heard and read that the FCC has been ignoring broadcasting in favor of shiny, new baubles like the Internet.”

So said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler as he addressed 2015 NAB Show attendees here in Las Vegas.

That’s certainly been true as AM owners wondered whether the AM revitalization initiative would ever make it out of the agency. Wheeler said this week he intends to “share solutions” for helping AM owners.

He still sees FM translators as part of the AM effort though he earlier moved away from the proposal to have a special window for AM owners to apply for FM translators.

“I also plan to address how to address how FM translators can benefit not just some [AM] licensees, but all licensees,” he said.

NAB President/CEO Gordon Smith told reporters after the speech he wants to better understand the chairman’s issue with FM translators.

Addressing broadcasters’ concerns about the commission’s proposal to close more than half of the Enforcement Bureau field offices, Wheeler said he realizes stations fear a proliferation of pirates will result. NAB and the agency are in talks about the proposal, and Wheeler said, “We want to work with you,” in the issue.

The agency’s pirate enforcement activities won’t diminish, according to Wheeler. He pledged to put more field agents on the ground in Miami and New York and reiterated what Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc said earlier, that every agent will be an electrical engineer.

“This is a situation of new realities demanding a reassessment of how we do business,” Wheeler said in explaining the planned closings. It costs some $10 million a year to keep all the field offices open, two to four times the cost it would be to have more centralized offices, he explained, calling the overhead costs “ridiculously high.”

In response to a question from Radio World, Smith said if the chairman “thinks this is a more reasonable approach,” he’s fine with it. “I just care about the result.”