Friday, September 18, 2015

Wheeler: No "Free Spectrum" for Ailing AMs

Tom Wheeler
In case there were any doubts about his feelings on a proposed filing window that would allow AM stations exclusively to apply for FM translators, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler made things clear today, according to RadioWorld.

Pressed by a journalist in a press conference after the FCC open commission meeting, Wheeler said curtly that it’s not the policy of the commission to give away free spectrum.

“The [radio broadcast] industry came to us and said ‘Here are the kind of technical modifications that we need to the rules in order that we can function better,’ Wheeler said. “I think those [requests] make a lot of sense and we should be helping them do that.”

But, reports RadioWorld,  he said, then came a second request that was tagged onto the first. “There was also, ‘Let us tag onto this [a request for] some free spectrum. Everybody has the right to ask for free spectrum, but it's not the general policy of this agency to give away free spectrum.”

The industry continues to wait for the commission to act on AM revitalization, and lately the agency staff has been considering a possible waiver of rules limiting how far existing translators can move. AM advocates have said that would not be sufficient.

Ajit Pai
Commissioner Ajit Pai pushed back against the chairman’s assessment of the move as a giveaway.

“The AM translator window is a critical part of the revitalization effort,” he said in response to a reporter’s question. ”It was a core proposal for the commission in October 2013 when we unanimously adopted the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.” Pai recited a tale from a Kansas broadcaster who said acquiring a translator boosted advertising revenue and listener levels because the station and the ability to reach people during drive time.

“The AM translator window … is not a giveaway,” Pai said. “To the contrary, it is giving a broadcaster a chance to do what they do best … and that’s something I really believe is critical if we are going to revitalize AM radio.”

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