Information current as of December 10, 2012
Most of the translator applications from the 2003 have been handled. We will maintain this page for historical purposes.
The Federal Communications Commission has determined how the remaining pending translator applications that were filed in the "Great Translator Invasion" filing window of 2003 will be handled.
Under provisions of the Local Community Radio Act of 2010, the FCC must license LPFM and translator stations based on community need.
In order to address the community need for LPFM stations, especially within urban areas, the FCC has developed a policy that clears spectrum for new LPFM applicants in the core areas of metropolitan areas through the preliminary dismissal of FM Translator applications in these areas.
In addition, the FCC has also imposed a nationwide cap of 70 pending applications (of which, a maximum of 50 applications within the top-150+ Arbitron markets) and an additional cap of three non-overlapping applications per metro market per applicant.
The FCC has taken the geographic center of many Arbitron Metro markets (the center city) and performed a study on the availability of potential LPFM channels within a 30-minute X 30-minute box (Outer Zone) around the center city. In markets where at least 75% of the population of the 30-minute by 30-minute box is actually in a 20-minute X 20-minute box (Inner Zone) around the center city, the FCC performed the study in the Inner Zone area.
The FCC did an LPFM availability check of either 31 x 31 locations at 1-minute intervals within the "grid" (21 x 21 locations in the smaller areas) to count the available LPFM opportunities in the area. Using that information and adding in any existing LPFM stations already in operation, the FCC then compared this count to a designated "channel floor" (which increased according to population within the Metro market).
If the number of LPFM opportunities exceeded the channel floor value, the market was declared Spectrum Available and pending FM translator applications within the grid would be able to be processed.
If the number of LPFM opportunities did not exceed the channel floor value, the market was declared Spectrum Limited and translator applicants within the market (both inside and outside the grid) must protect LPFM opportunities by assuring that their facility is not short spaced to designated locations and channel combinations within the grid where a previous study has shown that LPFM opportunities exist. A translator applicant must make a showing that their proposed facility does not preclude these LPFM opportunities within the grid.
In Top-50 Spectrum Limited markets, an FM Translator located outside the 31x31 grid but within the Arbitron Metro market must make an additional showing that no LPFM service is possible at the translator's transmitter site or that an additional channel is available for LPFM at the translator transmitter site.
Arbitron Metro Market Map for the entire USA (PDF/external)
Translator applicants will be given a limited amount of time to amend their applications to make a showing that their application does not impact the LPFM availability within the grid or in the case of Top-50 markets, meets the market preclusion policy.
The FCC will eventually announce a period of time when translator applicants can specify their one applicant per market and applicants with more than 70 pending applicants (of which, up to 50 can be in the top-150+ Arbitron markets) can designate which ones they wish to continue processing. In addition, the FCC will be allowing translator applicants to amend their applications to allow for the coexistence of their translator and future LPFM opportunities.
In March 2003, the FCC opened a filing window for new FM translator stations operating in the non-reserved band (92-108 MHz). This window was open to both commercial and non-commercial applicants therefore it was an auction window.
Possibly motiviated by a petition filed by Calvary Chapel of Twin Falls, Inc. to allow satellite fed translators in the non-reserved band (RM-10609), thousands of allegedly speculative applications were filed by two commonly-owned organizations. These applications were originally filed requesting to repeat commercial stations on their short form applications and then were changed to non-commercial stations on their long form applications thus excluding them from filing fees.
What has angered those in the community radio movement is not just the fact that they filed so many applications, but that they are now starting to sell these unbuilt construction permits. So far, this organization has booked millions in revenue.
In response to requests from the community radio movement, the FCC has imposed a freeze on the grant of new translator construction permits. That freeze has lapsed and the various community radio movement groups are requesting that this freeze be extended to any organization that has filed more than 10 applications and extend the freeze to include the assignment and transfer of construction permits.
In December 2012, the FCC had raised the application cap to 70 (of which, up to 50 can be in the top-150+ Arbitron markets)nationwide and 3 non-overlapping applications per Arbitron Metro market. The FCC also made a very stern statement towards current and future FM Translator speculators:
While we recognize that high-volume filers did not violate our rules, these types of speculative filings are fundamentally at odds with core Commission broadcast licensing policies and contrary to the public interest.