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FCC Publishes Order Updating Radio Technical Rules in Federal Register

On March 18, 2022, the FCC published in the Federal Register the Report and Order (“Order”) adopting updated technical rules for the broadcast radio services, thereby setting the effective date.  A summary of the Order is included in below. 

The Order and updated rules will be effective April 18, 2022. 

We have received questions about the new rules governing the power limits for AM transmitter stations.  The new rules do not permit licensees to avoid or exceed the maximum power limits listed on the Station’s license.  They do allow licensees to use a transmitter that is capable of any power level, but that transmitter must be operated in accordance with the limits on the station license.

Summary of Report and Order Previously Circulated

On February 17, 2022, the FCC released a Report and Order (“Order”) adopting updated technical rules for the broadcast radio services.  The Order adopts six updates to the rules:

  1. Removes Maximum Rated Transmitter Power for AM Stations: The Order amends section 73.1665(b) to remove the maximum transmitter power limit for AM stations.  The FCC concluded that an equipment limitation on transmitter power is outdated and unnecessary given current reliance on actual operating antenna input power as the most accurate and effective means of ensuring that AM stations adhere to their authorized power limits.
  2. Standardizes NCE FM Community of License Coverage Requirements: The Order amends sections 73.316(c)(2)(ix)(B) and 73.1690(c)(8)(i) to conform to the updated community of license coverage standard, which requires NCE applicants to show that their predicted 60 dBu contour will cover at least 50% of the relevant community of license or reach 50% of the population within the community.  This update conforms these two provisions to section 73.515, which was adopted after these sections and established the current standard.
  3. Updates the NCE FM Class D Second-Adjacent Channel Interference Ratio: The Order updates section 73.509(b), which sets out the signal strength contour overlap requirements for NCE FM Class D stations, to harmonize it with the less restrictive contour overlap requirements applicable to all other NCE FM station classes in section 73.509(a).  The modifications to the rule are set forth in Appendix B.  The FCC anticipates this rule change will allow NCE stations to increase power and coverage and provide them with greater site selection flexibility.
  4. Eliminates Protection Requirements for Grandfathered Common Carriers in Alaska in the 76-100 MHz Band: The Order deletes sections 73.501(b), 74.1202(b)(3), the second sentence of 74.702(a)(1), and the second sentence of 74.786(b).  The FCC determined there are no common carrier services remaining in this band in Alaska and thus these provisions are unnecessary.
  5. Amends the Definition of “AM Fill-In Area”: The Order amends section 74.1201(j) and defines “AM Fill-In Area” as: “The area within the greater of the 2 mV/m daytime contour of the AM radio broadcast station being rebroadcast or a 25–mile (40 km) radius centered at the AM transmitter site.”  The provision previously referred to the lesser of the two distances and this amendment brings the rule into conformity with the more recent definition in section 74.1201(g).
  6. Updates the International Coordination Rules: The Order updates sections 73.207(b) and 74.1235(d) to conform to relevant terms of adopted treaties with Mexico and Canada.  

In the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the FCC had considered eliminating section 73.316(d), which states that “applications proposing the use of FM transmitting antennas in the immediate vicinity (i.e. 60 meters or less) of other FM or TV broadcast antennas must include a showing as to the expected effect, if any, of such approximate operation.”  The FCC concluded, however, that the rule provides useful guidance to broadcasters regarding their rights and obligations, and declined to eliminate the section.  The FCC did make one typographical correction, changing approximate to proximate. 


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