Wave good bye to translator waivers


Ajit PaiA plan to expedite via waiver the process by which an FM translator can move from one location to another in the name of AM revitalization was shot down by the FCC on procedural grounds – to the dismay of many including FCC Commissioner and AM champion Ajit Pai.

The plan was to move W218CR from Central City KY to Tell City IN, within the contour of WTCJ-AM. The translator would be used to rebroadcast the AM.

The AM is owned by Hancock Communications; the translator by Way Media; Way would have sold the translator to Hancock had the move been approved,

The FCC cited the high hurdle applications must face to gain a waiver. Despite support for this particular waiver from the NAB, MMTC and others, the FCC said the hurdle was not cleared.

It said a number of issues relating to AM stations and FM translators were currently part of an AM revitalization proceeding at the FCC, and it said that was the proper forum for this issue.

Pai would have rather seen the waiver granted, He stated, “I am disappointed by the Media Bureau’s decision to deny the Tell City waiver request.  We have seen that FM translators can serve as a lifeline for struggling AM stations, and granting this waiver would have made it easier for AM stations to obtain such translators.  This step would have provided immediate relief to AM broadcasters, which is why the waiver request received widespread support from broadcasters as well as the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council.

“Today’s decision highlights the need for the Commission to take immediate action to help AM radio.  Had it been up to me, the Tell City waiver request would have been resolved as part of the AM revitalization proceeding.  But now that we’re on a different path, it’s even more critical that we open a window for AM broadcasters to apply for FM translators.  If we take that step, the denial of the Tell City waiver request will only be a temporary setback in our effort to revitalize the AM band.”


  1. The key problem with the rejected waiver request was the problem of not affording others an opportunity to apply for the “new” facility that would have resulted from the requested change, because the change was not mutually exclusive with the existing facility. A previous waiver grant did involve such mutual exclusivity between the existing site and proposed site, such that no other party could use the proposed site. Thus, at this point (absent a change in the rules which implement statutory Ashbacker Doctrine rights), a waiver request would need to involve a mutually exclusive site change. Not as flexible as some obviously would have liked, but the case does not mean an end to translator waivers as the headline implies.

  2. Thanks for your thoughtful words, Marc! I was thinking along the lines or wave good-bye to relatively broad translator waivers, not that they were gone for good — as the FCC said, it will consider waiver applications but that they face a high hurdle. Nevertheless, I’ll try to be a bit more careful with headlines — the goal is to get people to read the story, not to trick them, and I admit sometimes I am prone to slipping over the line!

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