While much of the attention paid to FM translators has recently come from their use to rebroadcast AM stations and the upcoming windows for, first, relocating existing translators to AM markets and, later, a window for new translators for AM stations (see our article here), many forget that there are still many translator applications pending from the 2003 translator window. While thousands of translators from that window were granted in the last few years (see, e.g., our articles here and here), there are still many pending mutually exclusive applications pending at the FCC. While the commercial applications that are pending will eventually be resolved through auctions, by law, noncommercial applicants cannot be resolved through auction. So, yesterday, the FCC released a Public Notice which initiates the process of requiring the remaining noncommercial translator applicants to submit information about their qualifications under the FCC’s point system used to resolve mutual exclusivity between such applicants. By December 16, 2015, remaining noncommercial applicants need to submit to the FCC, electronically, information about the number of points to which they are entitled under the FCC’s criteria. Failing to provide that information will lead to the dismissal of the pending application.
In reviewing the notice and the attached list of pending noncommercial applicants, one notes that some of the applicants don’t appear to be noncommercial entities. But the FCC considers a translator to be noncommercial when that translator rebroadcasts a noncommercial station, regardless of the owner of the translator. Obviously, however, the applicant who is not itself a commercial entity will not fare well in the point system analysis – likely lacking the ability to claim that it has a local established noncommercial presence with a local board, or part of a state-wide network. While many of these translators are proposed to be operated on commercial frequencies, applications that are awarded through the point system analysis can only be sold to another noncommercial company that qualifies for the same number of points for a period of 4 years after it begins operations, and then only for its out-of-pocket expenses. However, the Commission does offer an opportunity to avoid being selected through the point system.
Applicants are allowed, prior to the December 16 filing deadline, to file minor technical amendments to resolve their mutual exclusivity. This would seem to present an opportunity for some of these applicants, who have had applications pending now for over a dozen years, who have lost interest in their applications, to resolve their mutual exclusivity so as to be able to pursue other opportunities for those translators. And look for the next step in dealing with the remainder of the mutual exclusive applications – the commercial ones – through an auction next year, as the FCC promised to do in the AM revitalization order, before the window for new translators for AM stations opens in 2016.