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Next "AM on FM" translator window opens this Friday

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Coming up this Friday, July 29, 2016, the next filing window opens for AM broadcast licensees and other entities that wish to rebroadcast an AM station (with their permission, of course) to be able to move an FM translator to provide "fill-in" service for an AM station under the FCC's "AM Revitalization" plan. Starting Friday:

  • AM broadcast stations of all classes can now be proposed to be rebroadcast. Up until July 28, only class C and D AM stations could be rebroadcast.  This next window is the first opportunity for class B and A stations to participate. 
  • The translator's 60 dBu proteced service contour must be entirely within the AM station's 2 millivolt per meter contour and in no case should the translator's contour extend more than 25 miles from the AM transmitter location.
  • Translators must be existing facilities or construction permits and can be moved up to 250 miles and can be changed to any commercial channel (92.1 to 107.9).  There will be an opportunity in 2017 for new translators.
  • Limit one translator per station during the 2016 and 2017 filing windows.  If a translator has already been moved in order to accommodate a particular AM station in the earlier 2016 window, no other translator can be moved nor can a new translator be obtained next year.
  • If the translator is going to be operated by a party other than the AM licensee, written permission by the AM licensee is required and must be enclosed with the application.
  • Translators moved in the 2016 window are obligated to operate the AM station as the primary station for the translator for a period of four years from the grant of the license to cover.
  • Translators must protect other FM translators and full power FM stations on co-channel, first, second and third adjacent channel as well as LPFM stations on co-channel and first adjacent channel using contour overlap. Translators over 99 watts must protect the intermediate frequency (IF) of full-power FM stations using distance spacing.
  • Translators may not propose a service that would cause interference to an established FM or LPFM signal, even outside of the FM or LPFM station's primary service contour.

Because the prohibited overlap model is used for placing translators, LPFM stations should be aware that a FM translator can set up on their channel in a manner where the translator's interfering contour does not cross into the LPFM's protected contour.  This can be done through directional antennas.  However, because LPFM's protection to FM translators assumes that FM translators are non-directional (simple distance separation), it is very possible that you may become "short spaced" to a translator.  This could impact your ability to move on your channel in the future.  In addition, contours can be deceiving.  You may still receive interference based on the terrain between your station and the translator.  In a perfect world, they should not interfere with each other, but it does happen.  

LPFM stations should keep a once-daily watch on http://FCCdata.org by bringing up their LPFM station and then clicking on the "LPFM Channel Report" link within the engineering record to determine whether another station has filed in your area on or near your channel.  REC's http://fcc.today will allow you monitor FCC grant and denial activity on broadcast applications in real-time. 

For AM stations, working with REC can provide an opportunity to not only move a translator that you have arranged to purchase or may already have licensed to, but to do so in a manner that could have the least impact to LPFM stations.  REC is accepting work involving FM translators utilizing non-directional or simple directional antennas.  Please contact REC at 202 621-2355 to get started! 

For more information, please see the following articles in the REC Knowledge Base: