FCC's Pai Proposes Restoring AM-Only Filing Window For FM Translators To AM Revitalization Plan
October 1, 2015 at 1:14 PM (PT)
FCC Commissioner AJIT PAI has proposed restoring the concept of an exclusive AM-only filing window for new FM translators to the AM revitalization rules being finalized at the Commission. The window was in the original Notice of Proposed Rulemaking two years ago but has fallen out of the proposed rules, having been removed by Chairman TOM WHEELER.
In a statement released TODAY, PAI said that the idea of an exclusive window "has received overwhelming support, including previously from a majority of the FCC’s current members.
The moment of decision has arrived; Commissioners will now have to decide with whom they will stand. Will they stand with AM broadcasters across the country? Will they stand with 50 CEOs of minority-owned AM radio licensees? Will they stand with the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF BLACK OWNED BROADCASTERS? Will they stand with the MULTICULTURAL MEDIA, TELECOM, AND INTERNET COUNCIL? Will they stand with U.S. House of Representatives and Congressional Black Caucus members YVETTE CLARKE, BOBBY RUSH, G.K. BUTTERFIELD, BRENDA LAWRENCE, STACEY PLASKETT, ELIJAH CUMMINGS, ANDRE CARSON, HAKEEM JEFFRIES, DONALD PAYNE, JR., KAREN BASS, DAVID SCOTT, and MARCIA FUDGE? Will they stand with former Commissioners MICHAEL COPPS and ROBERT MCDOWELL? In short, will they stand for revitalization of a communications service that predates the FCC itself and has exemplified localism, competition, and diversity in broadcasting?"
Clyburn: On Second Thought....
But Commissioner MIGNON CLYBURN, under whose term as Interim Chair the proposal was first released, had her own statement calling the "tone and substance of the discussions surrounding the AM Revitalization Window item... both incendiary and misleading" and partly recanting her support for the AM-only window because it "would not provide timely relief to AM broadcasters, particularly small and low-power AM broadcasters, who would have to wait until 2017 to take advantage of this relief," although she added that she remains "convinced that opening an AM only window for broadcasters to receive one new FM translator is sound policy, (but) revisiting this proposal closer to the time of the Incentive Auction, would make this relief effective. I carefully considered Chairman Wheeler’s proposal to provide immediate relief to AM broadcasters through a 250 mile waiver, and believe that it would increase the availability of translators for AM broadcasters." She added that the waiver move "does not foreclose the possibility of opening an AM only translator window in the near future."
NABOB, MMTC, NAB: Us, Too
Meanwhile, as PAI mentioned in his statement, NABOB and the MMTC joined the NAB in sending a letter to the FCC casting their support for an AM-only filing window for translators. The letter from NABOB's JAMES WINSTON, the MMTC's KIM KEENAN, and the NAB's GORDON SMITH said, "While we understand that Chairman WHEELER remains committed to his new 250-mile waiver proposal and recognize some value in that approach, we strongly urge the Commission to combine that initiative with an exclusive window for AM stations to obtain FM translators. AM radio service is already significantly hampered and minority ownership is at dangerously low levels. The AM-only window is the only way to ensure that small, rural and minority stations do not get left behind."
"This is a critical time for AM radio and for minority ownership in general," the letter said, "and the Commission simply cannot afford to get it wrong. Thus, we propose that the Commission include an AM-only window for FM translators in addition to the Chairman’s proposed 250-mile waiver. That solution is the best way to serve the public interest."