Translator Crusades: D.C. Update

Things are in a somewhat strange state of flux at the FCC regarding the controversy involving speculation and trafficking in FM translator stations, at the expense of spectrum for more LPFM outlets. On March 18 the FCC released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) which seeks to expand the LPFM service; it also included a six-month freeze on the processing of any more translator applications from the flood dumped on the agency in 2003. However, the rulemaking itself has yet to be formally published in the Federal Register.
Publication in the Register is an important step in the regulatory process. Typically, agencies do not start the clock on a regulatory proceeding until it has been formally published in the Register. In this case, it would formally start the FCC’s comment and reply-comment period, which is supposed to run for up to 45 days following Register publication.
In one sense, lack of publication in the Register has extended the amount of time available to file comments on the proposed expansion of LPFM (proceeding number 99-25). This should include encouraging the FCC to open up a bona-fide investigation into the translator scam action.
What is not completely clear is whether time has also been suspended on the translator freeze. The NPRM itself says the freeze “is effective upon the release of this Further Notice and shall remain in effect for six months,” which could mean it will expire in mid-September. If one uses Register publication as the benchmark, then the six-month freeze has already been stretched to nine months, and counting.
Technicalities aside, wrangling over the issue of translator abuse has already begun. Two of the primaries behind the Radio Assist Ministry/Edgewater Broadcasting/World Radio Link cabal, Clark Parrish and Steve Atkin, personally lobbied at the FCC on April 13 and 14. They met directly with Commissioners Kathleen Abernathy and Jonathan Adelstein, as well as with a representative from Chairman Kevin Martin’s office and several staff members of the Media Bureau.
Parrish and Atkin “explained how the freeze accomplishes little toward the goal of a viable LPFM service [and] that few LPFM facilities were actually precluded by the FM translator window,” a perception that does not jibe with those in the reality-based community.
Parrish and his wife, Debbie, then paid a return visit to the FCC on May 5, where they spent approximately 40 minutes selling their line to Commissioner Michael Copps’ senior legal adviser, Jordan Goldstein.
Merging constituencies may outmaneuver the translator-mongers yet. The National Religious Broadcasters and National Translator Association are both very uncomfortable with the scale of the speculation and trafficking attempted here. Apparently, religious translator-networks like K-LOVE, CSN, and American Family Radio are known as “carpetbaggers” by those in the business who actually live and contribute directly to their local communities, and resent outsiders barging in to snap up open frequencies for the Lord.
Perhaps this discomfort among constituencies can be molded into something approaching a workable and expedient resolution to the translator invasion itself. Perhaps it might even lead to revisions to the FCC’s translator rules prohibiting such greed from manifesting again in the future.