Posted on November 22nd, 2013 by

In response to growing pressure from AM station owners, and after a few pre-announcements that action was coming, the FCC has finally launched a rulemaking proceeding to relax certain AM technical rules and consider an AM station-only FM translator window.  Every AM station owner should file comments in this proceeding.  Comments are due January 21, 2014 with reply comments due February 18, 2014.

 The NPRM tentatively concludes that it can and will hold a special filing window during which only existing AM radio stations and AM permittees will have an opportunity to obtain an FM translator permit to enhance their coverage.  Eligible applicants will only be able to seek a single FM translator per AM station.  Applications will still need to comply with the FM translator interference rules, and must strictly comply with the existing fill-in coverage area technical restrictions on FM translators for AM stations.  Under the FCC’s proposal, if an FM translator is authorized in the window, it will be permanently linked to the AM primary station acquiring it, and may not be assigned or transferred except in conjunction with the AM primary station that it rebroadcasts and with which it is commonly owned.  The normal competitive bidding rules will apparently apply to the filing window, meaning that mutually exclusive applications — if not settled through technical amendments — will be required to go to auction with the highest bidder winning.  The FCC believes the number of mutually exclusive filings will be limited because of the limited number of applicants and the restricted areas for which an application can be filed.  The FCC’s proposal does not include an expected time frame for the window.

A number of other technical rule changes have been proposed in the rulemaking, with most designed to give AM stations more flexibility in community coverage requirements and situations where transmitter sites are lost.  The FCC swings the door wide open for any other proposed changes, inviting commenters to send in suggestions.