As we wrote last week, the FCC approved the expanded use of FM translators by AM stations – allowing their use anywhere within a 25-mile radius of their AM transmitter site, or within the 2 mv/m contour of the AM station – whichever is greater. The current rule restricts that will be replaced limit FM translator use to the lesser of the 2 mv/m contour or the 25-mile radius for the AM station. We summarized the draft order here, and the final order generally tracks that draft. While the FCC has approved the change in these rules, these changes are not yet effective. Yesterday, the FCC warned eager AM broadcasters not to file an application in reliance on the new rules just yet, or to even file an application asking for a waiver of the current rules based on the upcoming rule change, as the rules do not become effective until they are approved by the OMB under the Paperwork Reduction Act and that approval is published in the Federal Register. To give all broadcasters an equal opportunity to take advantage of the new rules, any premature application filed in reliance on the rule change will be dismissed.
However, the FCC will entertain extensions to the construction permits for unbuilt FM translators used for AM stations where the AM licensee has decided that the new rules will afford them the opportunity to move the translator to a more advantageous location. Translator permittees must file for these extensions and have them approved by the FCC, and the extensions will last no more than 6 months past the effective date of the new rules (see footnote 22 of last week’s decision). The FCC also noted that, if the translator was moved using the 250-mile waiver rules (which we summarized here), any new move of the translator allowable under the new rules must stay within the 250-mile circle – the move done in reliance on the waivers afforded to stations last year, plus the moves allowed under the current rules, cannot exceed 250 miles. There will no doubt be many broadcasters looking to take advantage of these new rules soon.