FCC announces plan to resolve backlog of FM translator apps

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The FCC took another step yesterday toward licensing more low-power FM stations, which advocates for community radio have been awaiting for years. The commission will begin to work through a backlog of thousands of applications for FM translators under a new system that it adopted yesterday, a modified version of a proposal that it floated last summer (Current, July 25, 2011). The translator applications must be processed first because some could conflict with potential LPFM stations.

The FCC will toss out FM translator applications in larger markets to make way for LPFMs in those areas while continuing to process applications for translators that would serve less-populous areas. The commission will also limit applicants to a maximum of 50 translator applications nationwide, in an effort to prevent the kind of speculative filing seen in previous application windows (Current, March 28, 2005). The FCC also asked for comment on a variety of measures affecting noncommercial radio, including some that would give a boost to Native American groups.

The Prometheus Radio Project, an advocacy and support group for low-power broadcasters, welcomed the FCC’s action. “We are pleased that the FCC has taken such a careful approach to preserving channels for community radio,” said Policy Director Brandy Doyle in a press release. “And we’re particularly glad that the FCC has taken our recommendation to ensure that the frequencies set aside are in populated areas, where they are needed.” The FCC could begin accepting applications for new LPFMs by the fall, according to Prometheus.

The FCC’s own press release is here, and the full texts of its actions are also available (Fourth Report and Order and Third Order on Reconsideration; Fifth Report and Order, Fourth NPRM and Fourth Order on Recon).