The FCC’s proposal to allow AM stations to use FM translators for fill-in service (including at night, even if the AMer is a daytime-only station) has taken an important step forward.

The Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) containing that proposal has been published in the Federal Register (on Tuesday, November 6). With that publication, the deadlines for comments and reply comments have been established. If you want to file comments, you have until January 7, 2008. Reply comments are due on February 4, 2008.  The NPRM was issued in August in response to a petition filed by the NAB. The NAB’s petition attracted some 500 sets of supporting comments.

The proposed rules would allow AM stations to operate FM translator stations to retransmit their signals as a fill-in service, provided that no portion of the 60 dBu contour of any such FM translator station extends beyond the smaller of: (a) a 25-mile radius from the AM transmitter site; or (b) the 2 mV/m daytime contour of the AM station. 

The proposal also contemplates that AM daytimers would be able to use FM translators at night, thus effectively allowing them to originate programming on the translator. Precisely how that nighttime capability would work as a practical matter remains to be seen. The proposal raises a wide range of ancillary questions which will have to be considered before the Commission adopts all or part of the proposal. Those questions relate to (among other things) eligibility criteria, technical standards, and timing considerations.

The NPRM may be found here.