With more and more stations relying on FM translators to provide local service, a decision released last week emphasizes the importance of following the rules about the operations of these stations. In the decision, the FCC’s Audio Division proposed to issue a $2,000 fine for an FM translator owner that failed to advise the FCC that it had switched the primary signal being rebroadcast by the translator, as required by the rules. The Audio Division concluded that, for about a month, the translator was not rebroadcasting what had been specified as the primary station. During that time, as the translator was rebroadcasting a local station that already had a translator serving much of the same area, the licensee was also faulted for not making a “technical need” showing as to why it was rebroadcasting the same signal to substantially the same area. Two translators cannot rebroadcast the same signal to the same area without special permission if there is substantial overlap of the service area of one translator station with the other.

The violations were discovered as a result of a petition filed against the translator’s license application by a local organization, highlighting that a station’s actions may be watched by others in their markets. The proposed fine would have been $7,000 but the FCC staff found that the violations were not prolonged and that the translator owner had no history of prior offenses. Given the potential for problems that can ensue should a translator operator be found in violation of the rules, as the FCC has made clear in the past (see for instance, this decision about a translator rebroadcasting a primary station that had been off the air, and our article here about another that was operating with facilities different than set out in its license), be sure that you are observing all the rules that apply to their operations.