FCC Denies Tell City Waiver


The FCC Media Bureau’s Audio Division has denied an application to move the transmitter for an FM translator, now assigned to Way Media, to a new site in Tell City, IN, to rebroadcast the signal of WTCJ-AM, licensed to Hancock Communications.The new location would not have overlapped with WTCJ’s existing 60 dBì contour. The parties asked for the waiver to allow the move with a minor change application, and, if that were granted, to reassign the translator to Hancock. The waiver, if granted, would have made it a great deal easier for AMs in general to acquire and move FM translators — a fact that the Audio Division cited in its rejection of the move. Attorney John Garziglia calls the denial “an elevation of dated FCC procedures over the public interest.”

The Audio Division cites as a reason for its denial that “the waiver, if granted, would be so widely applicable as to be a general boon to the AM industry,” adding that “a waiver is not the proper forum to address AM revitalization public policy goals, given that the commission has recently undertaken a comprehensive examination of this matter.” It also said the parties have not made a compelling case that the waiver would be in the public interested; read the rejection letter here.

FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai said in a statement that he is “disappointed” by the decision, adding, “This step would have provided immediate relief to AM broadcasters, which is why the waiver request received widespread support from broadcasters as well as the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council.”

Pai added, “Today’s decision highlights the need for the commission to take immediate action to help AM radio.”

Garziglia’s Take

Wombyle Carlyle Sandridge & Rice attorney John Garziglia tells Radio Ink, “The Audio Division decision denying the Tell City waiver is an elevation of dated FCC procedures over the public interest.”

Garziglia notes that the waiver request was filed by Bud Walters as a direct response to Pai’s question at the 2012 Radio Show, when he asked, “Are there regulatory barriers we can remove to help [AM broadcasting] rebound?”

The request was filed unopposed; Garziglia notes, “The Tell City waiver request was the only immediately implementable AM revitalization solution. It would have removed FCC regulatory barriers to AM stations acquiring and moving existing FM translators. Removing FCC regulatory barriers to AM stations obtaining and moving FM translators would have been a win for AM revitalization as well as for the listening public.”

Here’s how he sees the matter:

“While the proposed AM-only FM translator filing window will be beneficial, it has now been two years since Commissioner Pai challenged his agency to eliminate regulatory barriers. Two years later, Commissioner Pai now hopes that an AM-only FM translator filing window can be opened by the end of 2015.

“The Tell City waiver request was premised upon a replacement of service theory. A full-service FM station may now apply to move from one channel to another even though the channels may not be mutually exclusive with one another and both facilities can co-exist. Likewise, the Tell City waiver request asked the FCC to apply a similar rationale and legal basis to the replacement of an existing translator channel service area with another channel and service area.

“There is admittedly no FCC rule or policy that required the FCC to allow the Tell City waiver relief with FM translators. Despite the Audio Division’s make-weight legal arguments, however, there is also no FCC rule or policy that prohibited the waiver grant if the commission wished to foster AM revitalization. Unfortunately, the FCC chose bureaucratic stasis over regulatory reform.

“Making it easier for AM stations to obtain FM translators through the Tell City waiver request was an AM revitalization solution staring the FCC in the face. It was an action that the FCC could have taken at any time in the past two years that would have immediately benefited many AM broadcasters and the listening public. It simply makes public interest sense to allow substantial FM translator transmitter site moves where the listening public can be better served by the replacement of translator service at one location in order to serve an AM station’s audience at another location.

“The Audio Division’s failure to grant the Tell City waiver request suggests that the FCC is more intent upon defending the FCC’s existing bureaucratic procedures, rather than enhancing AM radio service to the listening public. ”



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