Do Six Minor
Changes Equal A Major Change?
The FCC has signalled that they are taking a closer look at the
practice of "walking" licenses from one market to another.
Radio Power, Inc of Reno, NV had moved a translator six times for a
total of 63+ miles - and into a major market. The FCC is asking some
really direct questions.
The current inquiry, described in
a letter to Radio Power, Inc. of Reno, NV, regards the license of
W250BN, originally in Beloit, WI and currently licensed to West Allis,
WI - something like 63 miles away. West Allis happens, by the way, to be
less than six miles from Downtown Milwaukee.
According to the FCC, Radio Power has
been accused of abusing Commission processes "by a succession of serial
minor change applications," in effect, "walking" this translator across
Wisconsin to get it into the Milwaukee market. This was cited as a waste
of staff time and "potential misrepresentation and/or lack of candor."
The Commission letter noted potential statutory and rule violations.
GETTING THE FCC's ATTENTION
This was not the first such attempt to
move a translator to a major market. Nor has it been the first time the
FCC "reacted" strongly.
Last May, the
Commission stripped five translator licenses that William Lacy had
been moving from the Florida Keys towards Miami for years - since as
long ago as 2003. In its investigation, the Commission stated that at
some of the intermediary points, the translator was apparently operated
from a mobile platform just long enough to say it operated. Then it was
turned off and the next in the serial applications filed.
The Commission was not amused and a
Consent Decree ended the life of the five translators.
Apparently the FCC had now had enough
of this sort of filing. As new applications came in, they were given a
FURTHER NOTICE OF PROPOSED RULE
By July, as part of the Third FNPRM on
LPFM and translators, the FCC noted the need to take a look at the
relationships with translators and LPFMs, especially now that AMs are
permitted to use FM translators. There was not a lot of specific
connection to serial minor changes, but the tone of the FNPRM made it
clear there was a desire to "clean up" a lot of shady applications made
more for speculation than serving the licensed community.
In September, the Commission made a
clearer note about this while
allowing a grant to the Cromwell Group to move a translator to
Effingham, IL. As part of the wavier, the Commission noted Cromwell was
open about what it wanted to do, rather than making serial minor
modifications, attempting to "hop" a license as some had done "to
locations that are sometimes over 100 miles away."
ASSEMBLING INFORMATION FOR A
In the letter, the Commission has
demanded detailed information on the minor applications from Radio
Power, asking where the translator was, how long it operated, what
relationship it had with the market, etc.
When the information is received and
the FCC issues it determination, it should provide clear guidance on
what can and cannot be done in terms of moving a translator. Any
operators who are planning to "walk" a translator across a state should
take note. If the Lacy case is a precedent, it will not be merely a
fine, it could well lead to loss of license.