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Modified AM revitalization plan inching forward

The FCC is nearing approval of Chairman Tom Wheeler’s AM revitalization effort which is substantially modified from the initiative proposed in Sept. 2013 by Commissioner Mignon Clyburn when she served as Acting Chairman.  Gone is the exclusive window for current AM licensees to apply for an FM translator, despite otherwise unanimous support from the commissioners, strong support from industry groups and no opposition in the FCC record.

Instead, Wheeler proposed replacing the exclusive window with some translator assistance in the form of a limited waiver for AM stations to acquire existing translators and translator construction permits within 250 miles, and to move those translators to new frequencies if available.

After negotiations with commissioners, the chairman appears to have settled on a plan that will give class C and D stations the first opportunity to acquire and move existing translators within 250 miles for a period of about six months.  All remaining stations will then have the ability to acquire and move translators for an additional, limited period of time.

Commissioner Ajit Pai advocated for revitalizing the AM band at the 2012 NAB Radio Show in Dallas.  TAB was the first industry group to respond to Pai’s initiative, meeting with him in DC and demonstrating a number of options that could quickly provide substantial relief.

The original exclusive window for AM stations to secure FM translators was broadly supported by Pai and three other commissioners, multiple industry groups, minority station owners, the Congressional Black Caucus and even a bipartisan editorial from former FCC Commissioners Michael Copps and Robert McDowell.

Nonetheless, Wheeler never supported an exclusive window while never clearly articulating why, and the new tweak to his preferred approach at least provides some measured advancement for the AM band.

Attorney David Oxenford with Wilkinson Barker & Knauer, a TAB Associate Member, provides more details on the AM revitalization effort.

Questions?  Contact TAB’s Oscar Rodriguez or call (512) 322-9944.

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