FCC Loosens FM Translator Rules

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As expected, the FCC on Thursday approved an order that expands the site locations where FM translators can rebroadcast AM radio stations. The amended rule provides greater flexibility for an AM station to place a rebroadcasting FM translator in a location where it will better serve its AM station’s listeners. All three commissioners now on the FCC voted in favor of the order.

The FCC under Chairman Ajit Pai felt the current rule made finding a location for FM translators unnecessarily challenging. Under the old rule, an AM station could place a rebroadcasting FM translator either within its daytime service contour or within a 25-mile radius of its transmitter, whichever distance was less. The new rule allows the rebroadcasting FM translator to be located anywhere within the AM station’s daytime service contour, or anywhere within a 25-mile radius of the transmitter, even if the contour extends farther than 25 miles from the transmitter.

Chairman Pai said the specifics of the rule change involve technical jargon that only broadcast engineers will probably understand. “But the real-world impact of this order is simple: It will now be easier for AM stations to find a suitable location for their FM translators. And that, in turn, will make it easier for AM broadcasters to serve their local communities, particularly at night.”

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