2018 AM on FM Translator Window: Information for AM Licensees

EAS: The FCC is asking all broadcast stations to file ETRS Form One by August 27. REC is pushing for 100% LPFM participation. If you need help, please let us know. Filing services available for all three ETRS Forms. Retain REC now! 1-844-REC-LPFM. Participation is mandatory whether you do it yourself or we do it..

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.  

The second cross-service FM translator filing window from January 25 thorugh 31, 2018 and was limited to AM broadcast stations that did not participate in the 2017 filing window nor participated in the 2016 "250-mile" move opportunity.

What was the purpose of these filing windows?

This was a series of four filing 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.  

Who couldn't participate in the final 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,
  • 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 2017/2018 window?

Unless the FCC changes policy, yes.

How many translators could I apply for in these windows?

One.

If we have a translator already, could we have been able to make a "major move" during these windows?

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

If we obtaind a translator in the 2017 or 2018 windows, could we sell it later?

According to previous FCC orders related to this window, any FM translators obtained during the 2017 or 2018 windows 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.

It is also important to know that the "short-form" translator applications will not have "cut-off" protection.  This means that their contours may not necessarily be protected.  Since LPFM uses distance separation instead of contours, it may be possible that between the time the short-form is filed and the long-form is filed, an LPFM station may be able to move in to a location that would result in your contours creating an overlap.  The possibility of this happening is the subject of an informal objection filed against an LPFM modification in Los Angeles.  We still need to determine how the FCC will really treat this.  We have seen the FCC dismiss LPFM modifications that do not meet the distance separation between LPFM stations and short form translator applications.  REC's tools will protect the short-form applications.

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?

Now that the window is over, we can work with you on your long form applications or for other modifications.  

Please call 202 621-2355 to get started today!

Thank you for considering REC!

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