After updating the Thursday afternoon Radio Show crowd on AM revitalization, Commissioner Ajit Pai let the audience in on an idea the Commission is working on that he says will improve the quality of the FM band. Two years ago, the Commission sought comment to create a Class C4 allocation. Immediately, one broadcaster in the audience let us know the idea would displace hundreds of FM translators. Here’s what Pai told the crowd.
The Commissioner said Class C4 FM stations would have more power than Class A FM stations, but less power than Class C3 FM stations. “Specifically, Class C4 FM stations would be allowed a maximum effective radiated power level of 12,000 watts from a reference antenna height of above-average terrain of 100 meters. Under this proposal, it’s likely that hundreds of Class A FM stations could upgrade to Class C4 FM stations. That means they could broadcast with increased power and provide service to more Americans so long as they didn’t impact the existing service contours of other stations.”
We asked Broadcast attorney John Garziglia what he thought of this idea. Here’s what he had to say. “Class C4 may have been a viable and non-disruptive enhancement to FM broadcast service a decade ago. Today, however, Class C4 upgrades will potentially disrupt and displace service from hundreds of recently granted FM translators now carrying AM and HD sub-channel primary stations. AM stations in particular have spent significant resources in bringing better service to the listening public through FM translators. It would be a cruel trick for the FCC to now put that service into jeopardy. Class C4 will be highly harmful to our radio industry and the listening public unless in-contour FM translators will be fully protected against a forced displacement or termination of operations. ”
Pai says the feedback the Commission’s received on the idea has been generally positive, especially in rural areas and small towns. Pai is in favor of the idea and thinks it’s worth considering. He’d like the Commission to take the next step and issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. An NPRM would allow the Commission to explore the idea more in depth and help Commissioners decide whether or not to implement the idea.