AM Revitalization Rolls On; Comment Deadline Fast Approaching

Posted on February 29th, 2016 by

In addition to the FM translator filing windows for AM stations, the FCC also adopted other rule changes in its order last October. One of those was an amendment to Section 73.1560 to allow AM stations to commence operation using Modulation Dependent Carrier Level (MDCL) control technology without prior FCC authority, provided that within 10 days after commencement of MDCL operation, the station submit a completed FCC Form 338, AM Station MDCL Notification. The FCC has now obtained approval for the form, and the rule change and Form 338 become effective on March 3, 2016. The FCC issued this February 18, 2016 public notice announcing the form.

There are a number of open issues that the FCC is still considering as part of its AM Revitalization efforts. Comments on these are due by March 21, 2016. So if you have an opinion on modifying AM station protection standards, the rule on siting of FM cross-service FM translators, modifying the partial proof of performance and method of moments proof rules, the requirement for surrender of licenses by dual expanded band / standard band AM station licensees, utilization of the AM expanded band, or revisions to the main studio rules for AM station licensees, we urge you to file comments for the FCC’s consideration.

Some of these issues could make a big difference for AM stations. The FCC has opened the door for some flexibility for AM station main studio staffing and location requirements, both of which could result in substantial monetary savings. Unfortunately, the FCC did not propose a rule change here, but decided to gather more information to figure out whether to initiate a rulemaking proceeding to modify the main studio rule. The more stations voice their support, the greater likelihood for money-savings rule changes down the road.

Also of particular interest is the FCC’s consideration of whether to change the rule on where AM stations can locate an FM translator that retransmits the AM station’s signal. Currently, the rule allows the translator to be located within the lesser of the 2 millivolts per meter (2 mV/m) contour or a 25-mile radius from the AM station’s transmitter site. Many believe these limitations are too restrictive. The FCC has proposed that the rule be changed to allow AM stations to locate FM translators within the greater of the 2 mV/m contour or a 25-mile radius from the AM station’s transmitter site, but with an absolute restriction that the FM translator’s 1 mV/m contour not extend beyond a 40-mile radius from the AM station’s transmitter site. This added flexibility would present a substantial additional opportunity to provide FM coverage to AM station listeners.

Comments can be filed electronically (and very easily) through the FCC’s electronic comment filing system (ECFS). Commenters can access the system via this link.