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FM Translator Window Dates Announced for AM Station Applications

December 31, 2015

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has announced the dates for AM licensees and permittees to apply to relocate FM translators within a 250 mile area as a minor modification application during two window periods. The first window will be limited to Class C and D AM stations starting January 29 through July 28, 2016. The applications will be processed on a first come/first served basis. Therefore, it is imperative that applicants are ready to file on January 29 or else risk being dismissed if there is a conflicting application already on file. The FCC anticipates that there will be conflicting applications filed on the first day and, as a result, is providing a 6 month window period to resolve conflicts through amendments and settlements. 

The second window period will be opened from July 29 through October 31, 2016 and all AM stations can apply during this time. However, if a Class C or D AM station has filed during the first window period (as the primary rebroadcast station specified in the FM translator application), then that AM station cannot be specified in a second window application. The FCC will announce another window period in 2017 to allow AM stations to file for new FM translator stations.      

In the AM Revitalization proceeding adopted on October 23, 2015, the FCC decided that based on the comments received, the most immediate benefit it can provide to AM stations is the opportunity to apply for FM translators. Rather than open a window to allow AM stations to apply for new translators first, the FCC decided it would be quicker to process minor modification applications. (Non-conflicting applications are not subject to Petitions to Deny and conflicting applications do not require auctions). There is a tradeoff however. Any AM station granted in this window will be required to remain the rebroadcast station for this FM translator for a period of 4 years of operation.

The FCC is providing two new tools to AM applicants to assist in finding available FM translator frequencies and finding FM translators available within the 250 mile area. The FCC may have delayed issuing this Public Notice following the October 23rd decision in order to make these tools available to AM stations in time for the first window period. The tools can be found at www.fcc.gov/media/radio/am-revitalization. The FCC cautions AM applicants that these tools are of limited value and only a qualified engineer or attorney can determine whether a frequency will actually be acceptable in an application.

In the Public Notice, the FCC has provided answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs). Before investing too much effort in finding a FM translator, eligible AM stations should review the list of FAQs. For example, even if the AM station is already the primary rebroadcast station for one or more FM translators, it can apply to rebroadcast another translator in either of these windows. The FCC also states that in preparing the application, Exhibit 1 must indicate that the application is a proposal for the “250 mile window application”.

As a reminder, before acquiring a translator within the 250 mile area, AM station owners should make sure they have a frequency that works and a back-up plan in the event of a conflicting application. Class C and D AM stations must pay substantial amounts of money to purchase translators without the assurance that they will succeed in this window process.