Earlier this week, the full FCC issued a decision denying a Petition for Reconsideration of the FCC’s 2017 decision to relax the rules on the permissible locations of FM translators for AM stations, allowing them to locate anywhere within the greater of the AM station’s 2 mv/m contour or a circle with a 25 mile radius from the AM station’s transmitter site. The rule had previously required that translators be located within the lesser of those two limiting factors. See our summary of that decision here. As we wrote here and here, Prometheus Radio Project, an LPFM advocacy group, had petitioned for reconsideration of that rule change and asked for a stay of its effect, arguing that the change would impact the area in which LPFM stations could locate their stations if a need to change transmitter sites arose. Prometheus also raised procedural objections about the way in which the order was adopted. In this week’s decision, the FCC rejected the Petition for Reconsideration, finding that it was properly adopted, and that Prometheus had not demonstrated that the change in the area in which translators could be located would have a significant impact on LPFM site availability. The Commission came to the same conclusion that we did in our articles on the Prometheus petition, that the change in the area to locate did not necessarily have an impact on LPFM site availability – as translators could just as well move further from LPFM sites as they could move closer.
This decision was one that addressed pleadings filed back in 2017. Several broadcast trade press articles suggested that this decision was one resolving an Informal Objection filed last week by Prometheus and other LPFM advocacy groups against almost a thousand pending translator applications – both applications filed in the latest FM translator window for AM stations and other minor change applications filed by existing translator operators. While that Informal Objection raised many of the same arguments that had been raised in the 2017 Petition for Reconsideration (and in fact cited to the pendency of that Petition as one of the reasons to deny the pending translator applications), it is a different pleading that has not yet been resolved by the FCC. As the issues are similar, one would expect a similar result – but broadcasters who received the Informal Objection should not start celebrating yet. This week’s decision was certainly good news – but it has not resolved all the issues raised by the LPFM advocates.