The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted unanimously to open an application window for FM translators that would be limited to AM radio licensees. Specifically, the order authorizes AM stations to either: (1) acquire in 2016 a translator within 250 miles and move it to an open frequency; or (2) obtain a new translator to place in an available frequency through an AM-only filing window in 2017.
According to the FCC Media Bureau Chief Bill Lake, AM Revitalization proceeding has resulted in over 600 applications to move translators for AM rebroadcasts to date with 80% of the applications already approved by the Audio Division. The process will continue through the end of the window in July, as well as the three-month window to follow, which will be open to all AM broadcasters.
In addition, the FCC's order adopted other technical changes impacting AM radio stations, including:
1. The FCC relaxed the minimum daytime Community of License (COL) coverage standard from 80 percent to 50 percent of the COL, and for nighttime operations, eliminated the coverage standard for existing AM stations, and reduced the standard to 50 percent for new stations. The FCC found that these changes will make it easier for stations to cover a community that has expanded beyond the reach of existing facilities, as well as relocate antenna facilities to improve coverage.
2. The FCC eliminated the Ratchet Rule, which requires AM stations to reduce their signal strength when they make facility changes to modify their signal. The FCC found that the rule has not achieved its intended goal of reducing interference.
3. The new rules will allow stations to use Modulation Dependent Carrier Level Control Techniques (MDCL) on a notice basis, without prior FCC approval, instead of pursuant to a waiver. MDCL uses automated control techniques to reduce the electrical power needed to operate a transmitter.
Additionally, the FCC issued a Notice of Inquiry to initiate consideration of two issues:
1. The FCC is seeking comment on opening up the Expanded Band to additional stations, including the conditions to consider, and is asking whether this would be beneficial to AM radio service.
2. The FCC also is seeking comment on a proposal to relax the main studio requirements for AM radio stations to provide broadcasters more flexibility to co-locate studios, reduce full-time staff present at the main studio and other changes that would ease the burdens on AM broadcasters.