In recent weeks, two Petitions for Rulemaking have been filed requesting the FCC to launch rulemaking proceedings to revise the current rules which govern interference between full power FM stations and FM translators. Under the current FCC rules, if an FM translator interferes with the signal of a full power FM station – even in the fringes of its service area – the translator is required to cease operations until the interference is remedied. As a result of the increased number of FM translators that have been authorized recently based on the modification windows that were available to AM stations, the number of interference complaints from full service stations has increased. The licensee of a full power AM station located in Philadelphia, PA filed a Petition for Rulemaking requesting the FCC initiate a rulemaking to modify the rules that apply to fill-in translators (translators that operate within the contour of the AM or FM station that they rebroadcast) so that full power stations could only pursue interference complaints within the full power station’s protected contour. Comments with respect to this Petition must be filed by May 18, 2017.

The NAB has also filed a Petition for Rulemaking asking the FCC to commence a rulemaking proceeding to change some of the procedural matters that apply in interference disputes between FM stations and FM translators. The NAB suggests that the FCC should amend its rules so that FM translators that receive interference complaints can move to any other available channel. Under current rules, an FM translator can only move to a channel that is within three channels (up or down) of its current channel. The NAB also recommends that interference complaints must be supported by at least six listener complaints (with some flexibility to allow fewer in smaller markets and/or more in larger markets) and that the FCC should strengthen the requirements for how complainants are identified to ensure they are not affiliated with the full power station. The NAB also recommends that listeners be required to identify when and where they encounter the interference. In addition, the NAB requests that the FCC apply a specific time period, such as 90 days, to resolve complaints. Comments with respect to the NAB Petition are due on May 30, 2017.

Neither of the petitions proposes to change the secondary status of FM translators.