FCC Chairman Kevin Martin pulled an item from last week’s FCC Open Meeting that would have looked at allowing AM stations to use FM translators to fill in coverage gaps. Opening the FM band to signal-challenged AM stations would potentially lead to a clash with citizens groups looking to start up LPFM stations. Watchdogs are pushing for Congress to step into the fray in the form of enacting legislation that is already drafted. The Local Community Radio Act has bipartisan backing in both houses, including no less than John McCain (R-AZ), who joins with Maria Cantwell (D-WA) among others from the other side of the aisle. A sticking point is whether or not third adjacent channels will be opened up to either translators for AM stations or LPFMs, a move which the NAB adamantly opposes.
Meanwhile, according to reports, Martin’s Class A Television plank, on the schedule for the 10/15/08 Open Meeting, is going to explore the possibility of allowing such stations to upgrade to full-power status where absence of interference will allow, and also possibly granting them must-carry status on local MVPDs.
RBR/TVBR observation: Low power outlets are seen in Washington as an avenue to increase ownership diversity and/or to promote localism. And just as the NAB doesn’t want LPFMs causing interference to existing channels, the NCTA is not going to want to be burdened with any additional carriage chores. At any rate, we don’t see any definitive action on any of this before a new Congress and perhaps a new FCC is seated.