AM radio dial

The details of where many of the newest FM translators will be on America’s radio dial is coming into tune as the Federal Communications Commission has begun releasing details of its just-closed filing window. The FCC has posted the so-called short form applications in its Consolidated Database System (CDBS) with nearly 1,100 filings to date.

The vast majority of stations seeking translators are in mid-size and small markets, but there is plenty of action in the larger markets as well. That includes Atlanta market Spanish-language religious station “Vida 1010” WTZA, which has filed to sign on a translator at 93.3 FM. In the Bay Area, Multicultural Radio Broadcasting looks to pair up ethnic KEST (1450) with a translator at 104.9 FM while Salem Media Group wants to add an FM translator for San Jose business news outlet KDOW (1220) at 95.3 FM to cover the San Francisco metro. In Philadelphia, Trinity Associates Broadcasting’s WFYL (1180) hopes to secure a translator at 92.1 FM to give its 1,000-watt daytime-only station a 24-hour signal. In Minneapolis, Asian-American Broadcasting’s ethnic KFXN (690) is on the hunt for a translator at 104.9 FM.

There’s also Seattle’s Korean-language “Radio Hankook” KWYZ (1230), after a translator at 102.1 FM. And Radio One’s “News Talk 1490” WERE in Cleveland has filed for a translator at 105.3 FM. Meanwhile, in Baltimore, Family Station’s religious WBMD (750) hopes to transition from being a 730-watt daytimer to a 24-hour station with a translator at 103.1 FM. The tech consultancy REC Networks has compiled all the filings into a single PDF document that can be downloaded HERE.

While not every short-form filing will ultimately become a licensed translator, it does allow the FCC to begin sorting through the singleton applications that typically can be quickly reviewed and granted without the need to wait out the settlement process when there’s more than one broadcaster seeking the same spectrum. REC Networks founder Michelle Bradley notes that the short-form process does allow companies to modify their filings to seek a different FM channel or geographic location, but those changes are limited to “minor” changes only.

The first FM translator filing window was for low-wattage Class C and D AM stations. A second window will be opened later this year for all AMs. Those dates have not yet been announced, although it’s likely to be just as brief as the first seven-day window. A key stipulation for both windows is only stations that didn’t take part in either of last year’s translator windows will be permitted to participate. In both windows any competing bids for a translator that can’t be resolved during a yet-to-be-announced settlement window will then go to the now-standard competitive bidding process as part of Auction 99.

FCC chief Ajit Pai has called 2017’s first FM translator window “another significant milestone” in the agency’s ongoing effort to revitalize AM radio. “These translators will enable many of these AM stations to broadcast local programming to their communities at night for the first time,” he pointed out last week.

It’s been eight years since the FCC began allowing AM stations to simulcast on FM translators and the result is there are 21% more translators licensed today than when that decision was made in June 2009. There’s little doubt interest in translators has continued to surge during the past year. The FCC reports the number of licensed translators and boosters has jumped 9.3% compared to a year ago with 7,453 translators and boosters licensed as of June 30.