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FM translators for AM stations

UPDATED FEBRUARY 27, 2017

FCC approves expansion of AM translator service areas

In late February, the FCC had approved a Report and Order that would extend the fill-in area in which the (60 dBu) service contour of a FM translator can be placed to serve for the rebroadcasting of an AM station.  Under the old rules, the translator service contour was required to remain within the 2 mV/m daytime contour of the AM station and in no case shall extend more than 25 miles from the AM station.  Under the newly approved rules, the service contour of the FM station may now extend to any place that is within the 2 mV/m contour of the AM station or 25 miles out in a particular direction, whichever is more.

This is fantastic news for Class C AM stations which have very limited 2 mV/m contours.  Even if the station's 2 mV/m contour only extends about 12 miles out, you will be able to locate a translator at any point as long as the edge of the service contour remains within 25 miles of the AM station.  For some stations, this means being able to place a translator at the maximum power possible and likely not have to worry about using expensive directional antennas in order to keep the signal within the 2 mV/m.

Furthermore, the FCC is affording an opportunity to FM translators that filed in the 2016 "250-mile opportunity" window.  The FCC will permit stations to "further move its cross-service FM translator already relocated pursuant to the 2016 modification windows, as a minor modification as long as the proposed further modification complies with both the [new service area rules approved] and with the 250 mile limitation..."

With this rule approval, nothing has changed with the nature of translators.  FM translators are still limited to 250 watts ERP and are still subject to interference scrutiny from existing stations (full power, translator and LPFM). 

Please note that the new rule does not take effect until it is published in the Federal Register which takes on average of about 30 days from the time the Report and Order is released.  Stay tuned for details!

Potential auction filing window in 2017 for new FM translators for AM stations

Likely in 2017, there will be two translator filing windows for new translator stations (for AM licensees only).  First, for Class C and D AM stations that did not participate in the 2016 opportunity, then a second window for all AM stations that did not participate in the 2016 opportunities or the previous 2017 window. The FCC has not announced the dates for the windows.  There are still a few milestones that Commission staff needs to conclude before they will have the bandwidth for this type of filing window.

REC is equipped to assist most AM licensees wishing to obtain a new translator in the next filing window

REC can provide you with the ability to search for available channels whether or not you use REC for the actual filing.  Any charges paid for a channel search can be credited towards the costs of the full application services which include your construction permit application and your license to cover application.   

For assistance, please contact REC at 1-844-732-5736.  REC is reasonably priced compared to other more full-service engineering firms.  Pricing will vary based on project requirements (directional antenna, second/third adjacent channel waiver, need for an assignment application, etc.).  

Please note that this potential 2017 new translator opportunity is only for FM translators that will be used to rebroadcast AM stations and can not be used for LPFM or full-power FM stations. Translators must be applied for by the AM licensee.  If you need to move a translator for an FM or LPFM station, REC can assist you but the normal FCC move guidelines would apply. 

CALL REC at 1-844-732-5736

Additional resources:

Find competing AM stations in your market with FM translators

REC's FCCdata.org - to look up the 2 mV/m contour of an AM station

FCC AM Revitalization Home Page