The FCC has proposed the adoption of "floors" that would limit the processing of FM translators in markets where there was not sufficient spectrum for the introduction of future LPFM stations.
In a recent decision, though, the Commission appeared to introduce a limited opportunity for FM translators to be moved under certain circumstances. In the past, the Commission had permitted licensees to file applications to change the transmitter site of an FM translator so long as the 1mV/m contour of the proposed facilities would overlap with that of the previously authorized facility. These applications were treated as minor changes, and therefore, the applicant did not have to wait for a filing window to submit the site change application.
However, licensees began to file two or more minor site change applications to reach a new site, which, if the applicant had filed for initially, would have been treated as a major change application and subjected to competing applications. Informally, over the past year, the Commission's staff processed these serial applications on a less expedited basis. In the Further Notice, though, the Commission imposed a freeze on modifications of FM translators that proposed a change in transmitter site into one of the markets that the Commission had identified as lacking sufficient spectrum for LPFM stations.
A recent decision by the Media Bureau may reopen the door to significant site change applications under certain limited situations. In particular, an applicant submitted an application proposing facilities that did not result in overlapping 1mV/m contours, but rather only the 0.1mV/m contours overlapped. The applicant requested a waiver of the Commission's minor change application processing rules, arguing that since the Commission's rules preclude the filing of applications that would result in overlapping 0.1mV/m contours, an application to change the transmitter site of an existing FM Translator should be treated as minor under the same circumstance.
The Commission agreed with the applicant, granting the waiver request. In its decision, the Commission noted that the treatment of the application as a minor change would not undermine the Commission's rules, and would not adversely affect the Commission's actions in the Further Notice. The market into which the translator was proposing to move was not spectrum limited, and the FM translator was to be used to rebroadcast an AM station.
While the Commission did not codify this policy in a rule, it would appear that future waiver requests would be granted under the following circumstances:
• The licensee in question had no history of filing serial mod applications;
• The proposed modification would have been mutually exclusive with the station's authorized facilities, even though there was no overlap of the proposed and authorized 1mV/m contours;
• The market into which the translator would be moved had not been identified as spectrum-limited in the Further Notice, and the proposed move would not foreclose any future LPFM licensing opportunities there; and
• The move was intended to facilitate the use of the translator as a fill-in for an AM station.
Since the Commission is currently trying to implement the Local Community Radio Act, a waiver request which proposes both a significant site change and a transmitter site within a spectrum-limited market (e.g., the top 30 markets) would probably not be granted. The relief was granted as a waiver, so future requests will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, but the referenced factors should guide request preparations.
Dec. 1: Stations in GA and AL file License Renewal Application and EEO Program Report. Noncommercial stations also file their Biennial Ownership Report (FCC 323-E). Begin running License Renewal Post-Filing Announcements, continuing on Dec. 16, Jan. 1 and 16, Feb. 1 and 16, 2012.
Commercial radio and television stations, including LPTV and Class A television stations, file Biennial Ownership Report (FCC Form 323).
Stations located in AR, LA, and MS begin their pre-filing announcements, continuing on Dec. 16, Jan. 1 and 16.
Stations with five or more full-time employees located in AL, CO, CT, GA, ME, MA, MN, MT, NH, ND, RI, SD, and VT must place EEO Public File Reports in their public inspection files. For all stations with websites, the report must be posted there as well.
All noncommercial radio stations located in CT, ME, MA, NH, RI, and VT must file a biennial Ownership Report (FCC Form 323-E).
Petro is a member of Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, PLC, Arlington, VA. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.