Another radio topic sure to be discussed at the NAB convention this week is the ongoing story of the thousands of FM applications translators still pending at the FCC from the 2003 FM translator window. While this has been a topic at many of the NAB Conventions in the last 10 years, it looks like the end is near. On Tuesday, the FCC adopted yet another order in the processing of these translators, allowing applicants who specified that they were noncommercial operators to amend their applications in a window from April 8 to April 17 to specify commercial operations. That is important to such applicants as, soon after these applications were filed back in 2003, the FCC adopted a policy that said that applicants who elect noncommercial processing could not participate in an auction – and that they would be dismissed if they were mutually exclusive with commercial applicants. Not allowing these applicants the opportunity to amend (as the FCC has done in several other auctions from this period), would mean that the applicants would be dismissed for a defect that had not been announced at the time of their filing.
This is but one more step in the ongoing attempts to complete the processing of these applications so as to permit a new LPFM window later in the year. This will probably mean that thousands of new FM translators will be granted in the coming months – providing opportunities for the expansion of broadcasters' signals, either in the traditional way of filling in holes in the coverage of FM broadcast stations, or by allowing for the retransmission of AM and FM-HD signals. This should prompt many discussions at the NAB Convention as broadcasters look at the opportunities that these new translator stations will present.
With this new deadline being in April, as is the deadline for the filing of preclusion studies by applicants for new translators in spectrum-limited markets, it looks like the FCC is moving toward the opening of a settlement window for remaining applicants soon thereafter to try to clear out as many of the applications as possible to limit the need for the auction, and to bring a more settled regulatory universe for LPFM applicants to protect in planning their applications later this year. So, soon, we may be able to stop writing about translators from the 2003 window.
I will be one of the panelists in the Radio Regulatory Revue, a panel next Tuesday afternoon at the NAB Show in Las Vegas. This issue, along with a more general discussion of the continued processing of 2003 FM translator applications, is on the agenda, along with a host of other radio regulatory issues. FCC Audio Division head Peter Doyle will be participating (though probably by video connection due to FCC funding issues). It should be an interesting discussion. If you are at the Show, come on by and hear the latest on radio regulatory issues.