Translator Petition Attracts Scant Comment

A couple dozen folks filed comments in the FCC’s proposed rulemaking to allow FM translator stations to originate their own programming. Several of the commenters are long-time LPFM activists, and many of them support the proposal provided that a translator’s license status is not used to bump LPFM stations off the air, and that the FCC be diligent enough to prevent this type of abuse, especially in light of the speculation and trafficking in translator station construction permits that’s gone on in recent years. (Conspicuously missing from the initial comment round is LPFM’s largest institutional proponent, the Prometheus Radio Project.)
Other supporters of the proposal include local owners of single translator stations, who believe they could be used to replace full-power stations in smaller communities that have since been bought out by broadcast conglomerates and moved closer to larger markets (“rimshot” stations).
The National Association of Broadcasters is opposed to changing the translator rules on somewhat hypocritical grounds. It believes too much localism can be a bad thing: “While an argument can be made that more local programming is always better, when balanced against the effect that a new program origination rule would have on full power stations, the balance is not in its favor. Introducing a new class of broadcast stations would undercut the localism efforts of full power broadcasters,” though it does not explain how.
The opposition also includes Saga Communications and a few mom-and-pop stations, who fear localizing translator programming will open up a whole new tier of competition that might drive them out of business. Some LPFM proponents, like REC Networks, also wish to see the FCC deny this petition out of concern that it might open the door to commercial low-power radio – something the FCC explicitly decided against when it promulgated the LPFM service in 2000.
Ironically, many opponents claim that allowing translators to originate their own programming is unnecessary because it simply duplicates the LPFM service. But given that translator stations can be twice as powerful as LPFMs and can be placed on frequencies otherwise declared off-limits to LPFM stations, that’s a specious argument. It’s a bit disconcerting to see such a line taken by some LPFM supporters who really know better.
You can browse the comment record at this ECFS link; reply comments are due in early July.