There have been three filing windows involving cross-service FM translators since January 2016 with another one planned for a date to be announced:
- The 6-month window from late January to late June, 2016 is limited to existing FM translators to be permitted to move up to 250 miles away for the sole purpose of rebroadcasting a Class C or Class D AM broadcast station. Once the FCC allows the move, the translator must rebroadcast the AM station for a period of at least 4 years. The translator can not be changed to rebroadcast another station before then.
- There will also be a 3-month window from late July through late October, 2016 that is similar to the 6-month window but it will be for all classes of AM broadcast stations including Class A and B.
- On July 26 through August 2, 2017, there was a window for new cross-service FM translators. Those translators will be limited to the licensees of Class C and D AM stations that did not participate in the 2016 filing window. Once these translators are authorized, they become a permanent part of the AM station. Those translators will never be allowed to rebroadcast a different station.
- On a date to be announced, the FCC will open a second filing window for Class A and B AM stations as well as Class C and D AM stations that did not participate in the first window to obtain a cross service FM translator station.
It is important to note that this series of windows is for AM broadcast stations only, not LPFM.
If someone wants to obtain an FM translator for an LPFM station you must do the following:
- Find someone who has a license or a construction permit for a translator who is willing to sell it to your organization. Be warned, because of the current trend of using FM translators to rebroadcast HD-2 channels of commercial broadcast stations and now compunded by the AM Revitalization window, FM translators are being sold at a premium price. One recently was sold in a top-5 market for nearly $1 million.
- The translator must be physically near your LPFM station. There is no 250 mile rule for moving a translator that will not be used for AM radio.
- If a translator must be moved to a different site, there must be contour overlap of the translator's existing protected contour and the proposed new site.
- The translator's channel must remain the same or can only be changed to an adjacent channel or intermedite frequency. This means plus or minus 1, 2, 3, 53 (10.6 MHz) or 54 (10.8 MHz) channels. Unlike LPFM, a change to a non-adjacent channel for a translator must be triggered by an application by a full-power station (such as a full power station upgrading from C1 to C and causing interference).
- Wherever the translator is set up, it must receive the LPFM station over the air. It can not be fed by the internet, satellite or microwave. Translators that are not commonly-owned by the same organization as the LPFM may receive the signal off another translator carrying the same station.
- If the translator is going to be onwed by the same organization that owns the LPFM station, the following additional rules apply:
- LPFM organizations are limited to only 2 translators.
- The translator must carry the main analog programming of the LPFM station.
- The translator must be able to receive the LPFM station over the air (no internet, no satellite, no microwave, no receiving the station off another translator).
- The protected contour of the FM translator must overlap the protected contour of the LPFM station.
- The FM translator must be located within 10 miles (20 miles outside the top-50 metro markets) from either the LPFM station or the reference point for the community of the LPFM's license.
- It is also important to note that if a translator is going to be owned by an individual and not the LPFM organization, that individual can not be a board member or officer of the LPFM organization thus violating the cross-ownership rule.
- If the translator is going to be owned by a different organization, no person can be board member of the FM translator's organization and the LPFM's organization as this also violates the cross-ownership rules.
- It is also important to note that the interference rules for LPFM are much different than those for translators. For a translator, all it takes is for a full-power station to identify even one listener that is outside of the full-power station's protected contour but within the protected contour of the translator to potentially block the translator from being granted at a particular location. LPFM does not have this kind of interference rule (LPFM is based on contour overlap).
It is also important to remember too that unlike the "fill-in" translators that are being approved for AM (as well as full power FM stations) stations, FM translators for LPFM stations are limited in power using a "maximum ERP" factor. This is calculated by taking the height above average terrain (HAAT) measured in 12 directions at 30 degree increments. The highest HAAT in any of those 12 directions is your maximum HAAT. For non-directional antennas, FM translators will be limited to the ERP associated with that HAAT (there is a little more flexibility for directional antennas). In areas east of the Mississippi River as well as in California south of 40 degrees latitude, the ERP is based on a chart which gives an average facility of 250 watts at 32 meters HAAT. For all other areas, it's a different chart for an average facility of 250 watts at 107 meters HAAT.
REC does not maintain any information on translators for sale nor do we serve as a broker. Once you are able to obtain an agreement to purcase a translator, REC can work with you on filing the appropriate paperwork for the assignment of the translator and for the paperwork to move the translator to a different site.