The FCC’s new rules setting out a procedure to resolve complaints of interference from FM translators to full power stations will become effective on August 13. Initially, as we noted in our list of August regulatory dates for broadcasters, only the new policy allowing translators that cause interference to move to any available channel in their market was to become effective on that date. The remaining rule changes were to be assessed by the Office of Management and Budget for compliance with the Paperwork Reduction Act. It turns out that the OMB review has been completed and, according to a new Federal Register Notice, all of the new rules will become effective on August 13.
While these rules are set to become effective in less than two weeks, five Petitions for Reconsideration of those rules were filed last month, and comment dates have now been set on those petitions. Comments are due on August 15, with replies due by August 26. The reconsideration petitions raise many issues – from complaints that the FCC afforded too much protection to full power stations to complaints that the standards that were adopted make it too difficult for existing stations to raise a challenge. For instance, two petitions challenge the choice of the 45 dBu contour as the cut-off for interference complaints (suggesting that less protection should be given to full power stations, and one arguing that the Commission should have used the 54 dBu contour as the line at which complaints should be cut-off despite the showings of many parties that actual listening to FM stations goes far beyond that contour). On the other side, two petitions (see one here) argue that the FCC’s requirements for complaints to meet a desired-to-undesired signal ratio before they are considered to be legitimate is not an appropriate threshold consideration, and another contends that the Commission appears to have adopted a rule that only one complaint from a building would be counted in assessing interference complaints – effectively counting multiple complaints from different residents in big apartment buildings or dormitories as a single complaint. Another petition argues that allowing translator operators to shift to new channels to resolve interference complaints improperly infringes on future opportunities for new LPFM stations. In fact, LPFM advocates have requested a stay of the new rules, and the NAB filed an opposition to that request. Even though these petitions for reconsideration are pending, unless the FCC grants the stay request, the rules will go into effect on August 13.
Some important issues are raised in these petitions. Broadcasters interested in these issues should consider filing their comments with the FCC by the August 15 deadline, or respond to any comments filed by the reply deadline of August 26.