The Broadcasters' Desktop Resource

Do Six Minor Changes Equal A Major Change?

The FCC has signaled 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 closer look.

Further Notice of Proposed Rule Making

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 Determination

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.