Prometheus Wants to Stop The FM Translator Movement


The Prometheus Radio Project has petitioned the Federal Communications Commission to issue an emergency partial stay regarding the Commission’s plan to make a change in the rules that, instead of limiting FM translators to the areas where their 1 mv/m contour does not extend beyond the lesser of the AM station’s 2 mv/m contour or a circle 25 miles from the AM station, the translator can operate in any area where its contour does not extend the 1 mv/m beyond the greater of the 2 mv/m contour or 25 mile circle.

That new rule goes into effect Monday and it’s also expected to be followed by a new translator filing window later this year which could add hundreds, if not thousands, of additional FM translators into the American landscape. And Promtheus says those additional translators will be at the expense of LPFM radio stations. “The premature grant of new translator applications will cause immediate and irreparable harm to many of the Low Power FM licensees Prometheus has advised and assisted and to their listeners, whose rights are “paramount” under the First Amendment.”

Prometheus tells the FCC that incumbent LPFM stations will be severely limited in seeking to relocate within their communities of service because these new FM translators will box in or short-space them. “If, as is frequently the case, LPFM licensees lose their transmitter location and must relocate, they will be forced to shut down or to relocate to a distance that could preclude them from reaching their established community audience.”

Prometheus says it will be able to demonstrate that there is a very substantial likelihood of success because the Order was adopted in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act and is arbitrary and capricious. “The Order’s elimination of a set distance limitation for locating FM translators was not a logical outgrowth of the Commission’s Further Notice for Proposed Rulemaking which proposed only a modest modification of the distance limitation. The Order is also arbitrary and capricious because it does not address, much less resolve the question of the adverse impact that the Order will have on LPFM and its inconsistency with the goals of the Local Community Radio Act, and incorrectly equates commercial AM radio service with community-based non-commercial radio.

Prometheus also says history is on their side. “There is strong and highly relevant precedent for grant of a stay under these circumstances. During the period when the Commission was first implementing the LPFM services, the pendency of thousands of translator applications filed in a 2003 filing window threatened to thwart the prospects of LPFM. To address this problem, the Commission imposed a freeze on the grant of translator applications while it assessed the circumstances and fashioned an appropriate remedy. Similar action is needed here.”

Read the entire Prometheus filing with the FCC HERE


  1. Since the April 10 rule only changes the limits of where a translator’s 60 dbu may extend, and doesn’t effect the limitation on translator site and frequency changes, or permit new FM translators, what effect on LPFMs can this have? Translators can’t “bump” LPFMs. LPFM stations must be protected by FM translators as though they are full power stations.
    The translator applications I am working on for the 10th are minor power increases and directional antenna changes.
    Considering that AM stations are trading at historic lows, community broadcasters are likely to find it cheaper and quicker to buy an AM station and file for a translator in the application window than to wait for a LPFM window. The AM license can be converted to Noncommercial to avoid FCC fees, and high music license costs. If you want a community station, buy an AM!
    Promethius is just off base with this.

  2. Caffeine kicking in. Reading the Prometheus petition what they seemed to be worrying about are those high power AM stations installing translators far afield from their city of license. The April 10 rule change would allow translators outside of 25 miles–IF the station’s 2 mv extended that far. Not that common in the east with our lousy ground conductivity (E.g.–50 kw WWVA, Wheeling–2 mv at 38 miles). Since that translator still has to protect the LPFM not sure what the fuss is about…and few AM stations would have the interest to build that far out.

  3. The rule taking effect on April 10 concerns existing translators for AM stations. Under the current rule, the translator’s 60 dbu contour can’t extend beyond the 2 mv/m daytime contour of the AM station–nor can it extend beyond a 25 mile circle from that AM station’s tower. The new rule allows the translator’s 60 dbu to extend beyond the 2 mv/m contour of the AM station–so long as the contour stays inside the 25 mile circle.
    The 250 mile move window was last year-but the AM station had to buy an existing license. Another window is supposed to open up this year for new translator applications by AM stations.
    Translators have to protect the 60 dbu of co-channel and adjacent channel low power stations (Sec. 74.1204). Current rules regarding protection to translators by moving low powers are murky–but the low power can only move about 3 miles without a specific waiver.


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