In an unprecedented move which appears to now be new policy, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai released the circulation version of the Second Report and Order on the Revitalization of the AM Radio Service. Under the circulated document which will be under consideration at the FCC's February open meeting, the Commission would amend §74.1201(g) of the rules to extend the area of which a translator that is rebroadcasting an AM station is located.
Under the current rules, the proposed 60 dBu protected contour of the translator must remain within the 2 millivolt per meter (2 mV/m) daytime contour of the AM station and in no case shall extend further than 25 miles from the AM transmitter location.
The FCC proposed to change the rule to state that the 60 dBu contour can be located within 25 miles of the AM station and for stations with 2 mV/m contours extending past 25 miles, out to the 2 mV/m contour but in no case past 40 miles.
REC supported a maximum limit of 25 miles except in situations where the AM station's community of license is more than 25 miles away, if the area is not served by a local FM broadcast station or the station was within the state of Alaska. Other broadcasters supported the elimination of the proposed 40 mile outer limit.
In the circulation version of the order, the Commission is proposed to amend the rules to allow the 60 dBu contour to extend to any part of the AM station's 2 mV/m contour without the 40 mile outer limit. In addition, there will be a minimum reach of 25 miles from the AM station allowed. The latter rule will greatly benefit most Class-C and some Class-D AM stations which have very small 2 mV/m contours. Rural AM stations would not necessarily be required to invest in more expensive directional antennas for the sole purpose of keeping the translator signal within the 2 mV/m contour.
REC does support issues that positively impact rural Class C and D AM stations as most of these stations are owned by "mom and pop" or minority entities and in some cases are still an entry level into broadcasting. These stations are much more likely to focus on their local community than urban Class A and B stations owned by major corporations.
LPFM stations concerned about future applications being filed by AM stations can consult various REC resources including FCCdata.org which will show an AM station's 2 mV/m contour and our system that allows you to see AM stations with FM stations in your local area. It is important to remember that AM stations that participated in the 2016 major move (250 mile) opportunity will not be able to participate in the 2017 filing windows. There will be two windows planned. The first will be for Class C and D AM stations and the second for all other AM stations that did not participate in the first (C & D) window and did not take a 250-mile opportunity in 2016. It is also important to remember that this window is open only to AM licensees and that any translator granted in this window must remain associated with that AM station on a permanent basis. The translator will not be able to be split off. AM stations that are eligible to participate in the 2017 window may only apply for one station during this window series.
LPFM stations should also be advised that even though the Commission has not announced the dates of the windows yet, when they do, there may be the possibility of an application freeze where modification applications could not be filed so translator proponents can prepare their applications for the window. If there is no application freeze, it may be possible that LPFM modifications filed after the announcement of the window may not receive cut-off protections. Once we have some more insight on how this window will be handled, we will let you know but for now, we strongly suggest LPFM stations, especially those with short periods of time remaining on their CPs should contact REC immediately at 1-844-REC-LPFM to work on the modification needed.
The preliminary release of this Report and Order is a part of a pilot program established by Chairman Pai to make the agency more transparent by allowing the public to view what the Commission will be voting on before the Commission reaches a decision. While REC will be disagreeing with some items that Chairman Pai will be supporting in the months to come, we do support the Chairman's decision to open up proposed decisions prior to vote.
Until the document is voted on, it is not a final action therefore a Petition for Reconsideration can not be filed until after the final action For more information on filing Petitions for Reconsideration, see §1.429 of the FCC rules.
Please note that even though the Commission may release these documents prior to the open meeting, presentations made after the Commission's agenda is released (the so-called "Sunshine Period") may be restricted under §1.1203 of the FCC rules.
If you have any questions about this new rule and how it may impact your station (either LPFM or AM), please do not hesitate to contact REC.