FCC Seeks Comment on Streamlined FM Translator Interference Rules

The FCC wants to simplify the costly and protracted process currently used to resolve FM translator interference disputes, and is seeking public input on a variety of proposals designed to streamline the process. Public comments on the proposals are due by July 6, 2018, and reply comments are due by August 6, 2018. A copy of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking announcing the proposals is available here.

There are six key proposals:

  • To allow translators to resolve interference by moving to any available frequency as a minor change. Minor changes to translators are currently limited to moves to first, second, or third adjacent, or intermediate frequency channels. The FCC proposes to allow moves to any available FM channel within the same FM band (i.e., reserved or non-reserved) as a minor change.
  • To require a minimum number of listener complaints in support of a translator interference claim. The FCC seeks comment on the number of complaints that should be required to support a translator interference claim, and tentatively proposes to require six complaints from listeners at separate locations using separate equipment.
  • To standardize the information required as part of interference complaints. The FCC proposes to strengthen the upfront information that is required from listeners to allow for easier identification of each complaining listener, his or her location, degree of regular listenership, and lack of affiliation with the complaining station. The expanded upfront information is intended to help ensure the good faith nature of each complainant.
  • To streamline and expedite interference complaint resolution procedures. The FCC proposes that listener complaints that include the required upfront information will presumptively establish interference, which will then obligate the translator to eliminate the interference. The FCC also proposes to remove the current requirement that complaining listeners cooperate with the remedial effort (for example, by accepting new equipment). These proposals seek to remove the FCC and listener from involvement in the resolution process.
  • To establish an outer contour limit beyond which complaints would not be deemed actionable. The FCC proposes that no complaint of actual interference will be considered actionable if the alleged interference occurs outside the complaining station’s 54 dBu contour. This proposed standard is intended to establish a “cutoff” beyond which full service stations may not allege interference by distant translators.
  • To modify the scope of interference complaints permitted to be filed at the application stage. The FCC proposes to harmonize the scope of predicted interference complaints that can be raised at the translator application stage with allegations of actual interference. The FCC proposes to allow a party opposing a translator application to submit evidence of actual listeners that are within the complaining station’s predicted 54 dBu contour, rather than within the translator’s predicted 1 mV/v (60 dBu) contour. The FCC anticipates that this proposal will resolve more potential conflicts before translator applicants are fully invested in their proposed facilities.

Should you have any questions regarding the FCC’s proposals or would like to submit comments in this proceeding, please contact any attorney in our office.

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