New Policy on FM Translator Moves - Bigger Moves Permitted in One Hop, but Multiple Hops are an Abuse of FCC Processes

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The FCC today made it easier to move an FM translator from one location to another, but at the same time adopted new policies that seemingly restrict how far a translator can be moved. Today's decision uses a waiver process to relax the rules so as to permit a move of a translator a greater distance in a single application, but the decision also labels multi-hop moves as an abuse of the Commission's processes. As translators have become more important to broadcasters as a way to bring AM and HD-2 signals to a wider audience, this decision will have an immediate and significant impact on many broadcasters, once it becomes clear exactly what are the parameters set by the Commission.

Under Section 74.1233(a) of the FCC rules, a minor change for an FM translator requires that the facilities proposed in an application have a 60 dbu contour that overlaps with the translator's current licensed 60 dbu. In effect, this is saying that part of the protected service area of the proposed new facility must overlap with the current protected service area served by the station from its licensed facility. As major change applications can only be filed during designated translator windows (and there has been no FM translator major change window since 2003), to make any move in a translator, it must be a minor change. The decision today allows, through a waiver of the rules, a minor change application to be used if the licensed facilities preclude construction of the new facilities, i.e. if the interfering contour of the licensed facilities of the translator overlap with the protected contour specified by the application for new facilities. A the interfering contour goes much further than the protected contour, this allows the FCC to approve in a single application a move of a greater distance than would be allowed under a strict reading of the rule. However, there were significant conditions imposed on the application of this new waiver policy that may preclude longer moves that have been common in the last few years.

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