On Wednesday, February 16, the FCC adopted a Report & Order to eliminate and amend “outdated or unnecessary” broadcast radio technical rules. As you will see, some of the rule changes do not create new policy or requirements. Rather, the primary purpose of this proceeding is to ensure that all of its rules are consistently with each other. The other changes will have little impact on broadcasters’ current operations.

The FCC voted to eliminate the Transmitter Power Limit Rule for AMs, concluding that it is outdated given its reliance on actual operating antenna input power. The FCC agreed with all 5 commenters submitted by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) that argued that elimination of the restriction will allow AMs of any class to use transmitters of any rated power. This would allow the market for transmitters to expand including the secondary market and reduce the number of transmitters that need to be disposed of.

The coverage requirement for NCE stations was clarified by harmonizing an inconsistency between several rules. Originally NCE stations were not required to place a city grade signal over the community of license. When the NCE service was created, the FCC envisioned that the stations would be licensed primarily to institutions of higher learning. The FCC reasoned that even though the Communications Act required stations to be licensed to specific communities, it was also important that the institution itself be able to receive the strongest signal possible. As a result, the FCC’s rule did not require a specified level of signal over the community of license. However, the FCC decided to change that rule in 2000 since most NCE stations are not licensed to educational institutions resulting in a 60 dBu signal over the community rather than the 70 dBu signal in place for commercial stations. The FCC did not update all of its rules at that time to reflect this change and has now amended one its rules to ensure that this requirement is consistent throughout.

The FCC modified the second adjacent protection requirement for the few remaining NCE Class D stations to be consistent with all other NCE station classes. With this change, the less restrictive 100 dBu interfering contour cannot overlap the 2nd adjacent station’s 60 dBu contour (rather than the current 80 dBu contour) when applying for new or modified facilities.

The FCC also amended one of its rules which failed to reflect that the requirement that a FM translator rebroadcasting an AM radio broadcast station must be contained within the greater (rather than the lesser) of either the 2 mV/m daytime contour of the AM station or a 25–mile (40 km) radius centered at the AM transmitter site.

The Report & Order also updates the Border FM Rules affecting radio stations near the Mexican and Canadian borders, and adopting an NAB suggestion about how distances are calculated for border agreements. It updates the rules and eliminates language inconsistent with the terms and requirements of the 1992 U.S.-Mexico FM Broadcasting Agreement and the 1991 U.S.-Canada FM Broadcasting Agreement.

These rule changes will become effective 30 days after Federal Register publication.

For more information on these rule changes contact Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth.