How Not to Use Your FM Translator

Posted on December 28th, 2017 by

Most broadcasters holding FM translator authorizations know that they must retransmit the broadcast of their primary station, and cannot originate their own programming except in very narrow and brief circumstances (i.e., emergencies and 30 seconds per hour to seek or acknowledge financial support). But recently, the FCC fined a translator licensee for airing different programming than the main station during, for example, sporting events. On the primary station, the play-by-play of a football game could be heard, but on the primary station’s FM translator, classical music was heard. The FCC dropped the yellow flag on that play, assessing a $4,000 fine.

There’s another important origination exception in the rules. For daytime AM stations that now have an FM translator station, does broadcasting programming on the translator while the AM station is off the air permissible? That’s another exception to the rule, and the answer is yes. The FM translator may originate programming during those hours that the AM station is off the air, with the only caveat being that the AM station must have operated within the last 24 hours.