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2017 AM on FM Translator Window: Information for AM Licensees

This information is provided by REC Networks to assist AM licensees that are interested in adding an FM translator in the upcoming filing windows for new stations.  

The first cross-service FM translator filing window was from July 26 through August 2, 2017 and it was limited to Class C and D AM stations that did not participate in the 2016 "250-mile" move opportunity.  Another window will be announced soon.  This window will be available to all casses of AM stations that did not participate in the 2016 "250 mile" move opportunity or the first cross-service FM translator filing window.

What is the purpose of this window?

This is going to be the third filing window in a series of windows to promote AM Revitalization, an effort spearheaded by then Commissioner and now FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to help commercial and non-commercial AM broadcast stations, especially in this modern environment of increased interference from electronic devices as well as a method to help AM stations that have limited nighttime service to be able to provide more reliable service to their home communities despite their limitations on AM.  The first window was limited to Class C and D AM stations.  The next window will be available to Class B (and A) stations and is a "second chance" for Class C and D AM stations that missed the opportunity in late July, 2017.

How do I know if I am eligible to participate in this window?

You are eligible if you are an AM station and that between January 29 and October 31, 2016, no application was filed by the AM licensee or a third party specifying your AM station as the primary station that involved a physical change in a FM translator facility that was beyond that normally allowed to FM translators as a minor change such as where the FM translator was permitted to move up to 250 miles and/or make a non-adjacent channel change and specifing an AM station as the primary station.  More information about the 2016 window can be found here.   If during the period from 1/29/2016~10/31/2016, your station obtained a translator but either did not move it or only changed it in what is considered a minor change, then you may participate in the 2017 window.

Who can't participate in the second cross-service FM translator window?

  • Full-power FM broadcasters, commercial and non-commercial for extending service (NCE) or for HD-2/fill-in,
  • Speculators that are not the licensee of the AM broadcast station (a large majority of 2003 translator applications were filed by speculators),
  • Low Power FM licensees (REC did file a petition for reconsideration to allow LPFM licensees to get translators in the A/B window later this year),
  • AM stations that moved a translator up to 250 miles during one of the 2016 move windows outside of the definition of what would be a "minor change". (Even if the translator was licensed to a party other than the AM station licensee).
  • Class C and D AM stations that did participate in the first cross-service FM translator window from 7/26/2017~8/2/2017.

Before 2016, we moved a translator under a "Mattoon Waiver".  Are we still eligible for the 2017 window?

Unless the FCC changes policy, yes.

How many translators can I apply for in this window?

One.

If we have a translator already, will we be able to make a "major move" during this window?

Major changes by existing translators will not be permitted in this filing window.

If we obtain a translator in the 2017 window, can we sell it later?

According to previous FCC orders related to this window, any FM translators obtained during this 2017 window will be permanently linked to the AM station license and the translator would be limited to rebroadcasting the associated AM station and that the FM translator license would not be able to be split from the AM license.  As mentioned before, applicants that are not AM licensees will not be able to participate in this window therefore, we will not see the same level of speculation we saw by a few parties in 2003.

Where can we place the translator and what other limitations do we have?

The recent change in the rules allow FM translators that are carrying AM stations to be placed in a manner where the 60 dBu protected contour of the FM translator must remain anywhere within the greater of 25 miles or the 2 mV/m daytime contour.  This rule change is very helpful to two-thirds of the Class C and D AM stations that have 2 mV/m contours of less than 25 miles in all directions. 

FM translators carrying AM stations are limited to 250 watts effective radiated power but do not require a reduction of power because of height above average terrain as long as the 60 dBu protected contour remains within the 2 mV/m or 25 mile radius mentioned above and that the translator protects all other FM broadacst facilities.  There are additional restrictions and considerations for FM translators close to the Mexican and Canadian border.

Any suggestions on channel selection?

Under the rules, translators must protect other broadcast facilities on their co-channel, first, second and third adjacent channels to assure that the translator's interfering contour do not overlap the protected service contour of the existing facility.  FM translators are not required to protect LPFM stations on second or third adjacent channels.  FM translators that can not meet the overlap requirements on second or third adjacent channels may be able to apply for a waiver upon showing that the actual interfering contour of the translator does not  create any interference to the other station.  REC can assist with that.  FM translators operating with 100 or more watts ERP are also required to protect intermediate frequency (+/- 10.6 and 10.8 MHz) facilities as if the translator was a Class A FM station.  

You also need to be careful not to select a channel that is used by a distant FM broadcast station where that station may market for listeners in the area of the translator.  If an existing FM facility (full power, translator, LPFM, etc.) is able to show that your translator is going to take away listeners that are within the protected service contour of your translator (even though it is outside their contour), they can object to your FM translator under §74.1203 of the rules.

REC recognizes that many Class C and D AM stations are small businesses that are family and/or minority owned and that such stations have a close connection to the community they serve.  With that, we also recognize that there are many LPFM stations that are operated by organizations in your local community that also maintain a close connection within their communities.  We do ask that whether you go with REC or another consultancy, that if the placement of an FM translator in a manner that hampers the operation of an LPFM station can be avoided, we ask that you do what you can to avoid the hampering of LPFM stations.  REC does recognize though that in some cases, that can not be avoided.  While LPFM stations are not specifically mentioned in §74.1203 since the rule has not been amended since the creation of LPFM, it is REC's interpretation that established (already on the air) LPFM stations fall under the definition of "any broadcast service" and therefore subject to protection.

REC also recommends that when selecting a channel, try to find an alternate channel that can be used that is 1, 2 or 3 channels away.  (For example, if your first choice is 95.5, try to make your next choice one of the following channels: 94.1, 95.1, 95.3, 95.7, 95.9 and 96.1 as long as the channel is otherwise available.  You may need that channel if your application is considered mutually exclusive.

How will the application process work?

Until the FCC releases information specific to this window, here's how they handled the 2003 window: 

  • During the designated window period, prospective AM station applicants will file a "short form" with basic engineering information as well as the FCC Form 175.  No FCC fee is due at this time.
  • After the window, the FCC will release the applications for public viewing.
  • At the conclusion of the window, the FCC will determine which applications do not have competition (singleton).  At that time, those applicants will be instructed to file the "long form" application and pay the $805 filing fee (if they are commercial).  Once the singleton has filed their long form application, it will be accepted for filing and a 15 day period will be set aside for those who wish to file a petition to deny the application. If after 15 days, there's no issues and the application is technically sound, then the application will be granted for a 3 year construction permit.
  • For conflicting or mutually exclusive applications, the FCC should have a period of time where the applicants can reach settlements with the conflicting applicants or otherwise unilaterally make "minor" technical changes to eliminate the conflict.
  • Conflicting applications that can not be resolved will go to auction and the highest bidder will get their application granted.  (there is a different process if the applicant is a non-commercial educational station.)
  • Once a station is built and they are ready to go on the air, they will file Form 350, the translator's equivilent to the Form 319.  Commercial applicants will pay a $165 filing fee at this time.

What services does REC provide?

REC can work with you to identify potential channels and work with you on options for omnidirectional or directional antennas based on your station's specific requirements and the nature of spectrum in a particular community.  REC will then file the applications during the filing window.  In the event of mutual exclusitivity (competing applications), we can work to reach a settlement with the other applicant or a unilateral solution.  Upon completion of construction, we will file the license application. 

The client is responsible for identifying a site (we can help point out where some towers are at), paying all filing fees to the FCC, the acqusision of equipment (we can guide you to our recommended providers), the installation of equipment and if necessary, any direct or indirect measurements on the AM tower (if the translator antenna is installed on the AM tower).  REC is not equipped to file applications (such as direct measurement, BZ applications)  for the AM facility itself. 

REC works on a non-refundable retainer to handle the work mentioned above and a reasonable amount of "overtime" work including multiple site evaluations and multiple channel evaluations.  REC does not work on an "hourly" basis but instead charges a flat retainer.  Our policy is that we will not collect any retainer unless we are certain at this time, there will be options available.  We do advise that broadcast spectrum is fluid and what is available now may not be available at the time of the window.  REC will be looking at a "plan B" (and even a "plan C" if there is one) in the period of time leading up to the window. 

For the 2017 window, we want to avoid conflicts of interest and therefore we will do our best to avoid taking two clients with potentially conflicting translators unless an agreement is made between the two stations to cooperate.

Once the announcement is made on the second filing window, we will accept retainers at this time but regardless, you are still welcome to inquire and we will get you on the list.

Thank you for considering REC!

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