FCC: No AM Industry Boons While AM Revitalization Proceeding Lumbers On

Posted on September 22nd, 2014 by

The Audio Division has finally ruled on an application to relocate an FM translator that has been pending since November 2012. The application sought a waiver of the minor change rule to permit relocation of the translator to serve an AM station. The city to which the applicant wanted to move was Tell City, Indiana. The application had become fondly known (in legal circles, anyway) as the “Tell City Waiver” application. The applicant also submitted letters of support from several third parties, including the mayor of Tell City, Indiana and NAB.

The waiver request sought a change that would have allowed FM translator relocations if the existing transmitter site was within the 0.025 mV/m interference contour of the AM station, which encompasses a much larger geographic area. Despite its best arguments to convince the FCC to grant the waiver, which included labeling the minor change rule as having “outdated public interest benefit” and being nothing more than a “procedural barrier”, the FCC said no.

The FCC denied the waiver request, in part, because doing so would have been a “general boon to the AM industry” and that any such change would best be considered as part of the ongoing AM Revitalization proceeding since it involved “regulatory change”.   Even the applicant’s efforts to expand the Mattoon Waiver policy to include its application were rejected.

We have encountered similar resistance and reluctance by the staff, even to a request that fully comports with current regulations but has not traditionally been granted to commercial stations – namely, a main studio waiver for daytime-only AM stations. We find it hard to explain why the FCC continues to cling to outdated and no longer practical restrictions in the name of a rulemaking that is likely to produce (at least initially) only limited relief for AM stations. By the time the FCC gets around to rule and policy changes, there will be fewer AM stations around to benefit from them. We have our fingers crossed for Commissioner Pai’s “relief by Halloween” target date, but the Chairman controls the agenda.