Class C4 And FM Translators


Matthew Wesolowski writes in the July 2, 2014 edition of Radio Ink advocating for a Class C4 classification for Class A FM stations that would allow for 12 kilowatts ERP for approximately one-third of all such Zone II stations. I am all for maximum power and coverage for FM stations.  As the proponent of both the Class C3 and Class C0 power levels for FM stations some years ago, I would ordinarily be hard pressed to find fault with such a proposal. But….

But, in the years intervening between the adoption of the Class C3 and Class C0 power levels and now, two important aspects of FM broadcasting have dramatically changed.  Years ago, FM translators were not being used by AM broadcasters as a lifeline to reach audiences.  In addition, years ago FM translators were not being used by HD sub-channels for the re-broadcast of diverse programming to analog radios.

The adoption of the Class C4 proposal, by expanding signal contours and impinging upon FM translator service areas, would potentially jeopardize the continued existence of many FM translators.  And even though commercial broadcasters may have a lesser concern for LPFM stations, a Class C4 power increase would also be detrimental for many newly-granted LPFM facilities.

The Class C4 proposal as currently advanced would be destructive to our broadcasting industry.  If Class C4 is to be considered, the FCC should also consider commensurate protections for FM translators (I will leave it to LPFM proponents to advocate for themselves – they have shown themselves very adept at doing so).

There are far too many situations now occurring where, for competitive or malevolent reasons, a full-service station makes spurious claims of interference substantially outside its service area against an FM translator leading to great expense and uncertainty for the continued existence of the FM translator station.

If the FCC opens a window for AM broadcasters to apply for FM translators, such interference claims will undoubtedly increase.  The last thing that the FCC’s AM revitalization effort needs is for newly acquired FM translators to be subject to competitive or malevolent interference complaints that could remove translators from the air after being built.

Therefore, to move forward with the Class C4 proposal, the FCC should include the following protections for FM translators:

— Any translator displacement should only be with the assent of the translator licensee, and the FCC should allow the translator to move to any other channel on the FM band of the translator’s choosing, consistent with FCC rules.

— The FCC’s rules should be amended to limit any interference complaint only to a complaint arising within the first year of the translator’s or full-service station’s operations with current facilities, and only within the full-service station’s protected contour, without respect to whether it arises for a Class C4 station or for any other FM station.

— Class C4 upgrade rules should not become effective until the FCC has opened and closed the proposed AM-only window for FM translator applications.

With these three protections and changes to the FCC’s rules for FM translators, Class C4 would be a good proposal as it would not endanger AM stations now being carried on F M translators and those HD sub-channel stations that have achieved success having their diverse programming carried on an FM translator station.


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