The Federal Communications Commission has finalized a series of changes to its technical rules covering U.S. broadcast radio.

Many of the changes are bureaucratic — cleaning up wording and inconsistencies. But some have meat. For instance, some Class D NCE stations may now be able to increase power and coverage as well as enjoy more flexibility in site selection.

On Thursday the FCC released its report and order that eliminates or amends rules it says were outdated or unnecessary. The changes “better reflect current developments in the radio industry and ensure that our technical rules are accurate, up to date and consistent,” it wrote.

“In so doing, we increase transparency and certainty for broadcasters while eliminating unnecessary regulatory burdens.”

Radio World reported earlier on the planned changes.

[Related: “FCC Takes a Broom to Radio Technical Rules”]

The commission adopted almost all the proposals set out earlier except that it kept its “proximate interference” rule.

Here is what the commission did:

The FCC removed the maximum rated transmitter power limit for AM stations, saying it had received no opposition.

“[A]n equipment limitation on transmitter power is outdated and unnecessary given our current reliance on actual operating antenna input power as the most accurate and effective means of ensuring that AM stations adhere to their authorized power limits.”

It said elimination of this restriction will allow AM stations of any class to use transmitters of any rated power, “benefiting the AM service by broadening the market of transmitters available to stations, enhancing the secondary market for AM transmitters and reducing the number of transmitters that need to be disposed of.”

It eliminated an inconsistency between sections of the rules involving NCE FM community of license coverage.

Two sections currently state that NCE stations must demonstrate that they cover “at least a portion of the community of license” when submitting certain types of applications. But another section established the current standard that NCE stations must cover 50% of their community of license or 50% of the population in their community with a 60 dBu signal strength predicted contour.

The old language was changed to conform to the current standard.

It updated signal strength contour overlap requirements for NCE FM Class D stations to harmonize with a less restrictive section of the rules that applies to other NCE FM classes.

“We agree … that there is no reason to continue treating Class D stations differently in this context.” When the FCC updated these rules in 2000, it deferred including Class D NCE stations to accommodate the establishment of the low-power FM service.

“Because the LPFM service is now mature, it is appropriate to extend the general contour overlap limits to Class D NCE stations. We anticipate that the less preclusive requirement will create opportunities for NCE stations to increase power and coverage, as well as provide them with greater site selection flexibility.”

It eliminated four obsolete provisions that require radio stations operating in the 76–100 MHz band to protect grandfathered common carrier services in Alaska. “Our licensing databases indicate that there are no common carrier services remaining in this band in Alaska.”

It tweaked the definition of “AM fill-in area” in one part of the rules to conform to a later definition, which states that the “coverage contour of an FM translator rebroadcasting an AM radio broadcast station as its primary station must be contained within the greater of either the 2 mV/m daytime contour of the AM station or a 25-mile (40 km) radius centered at the AM transmitter site.”

Currently, one section refers to the lesser of these two distances. The NAB said the current wording “may inadvertently prevent many AM stations from operating FM translators within their 2 mV/m contour.” The FCC agreed, so the relevant section now defines an AM fill-in area as: “The area within the greater of the 2 mV/m daytime contour of the AM radio broadcast station being rebroadcast or a 25-mile (40 km) radius centered at the AM transmitter site.”

Finally, the commission adopted several changes that relate to coordination with Canada and Mexico.

It updated a rule that contains minimum distance separations between U.S. and Mexican or Canadian FM stations, to reflect treaty requirements. The FCC noted that the NAB was concerned that the updated requirements appear to impose greater minimum distance separations on Class A FM stations than is currently provided for in the rules, so NAB asked the FCC to confer “grandfathered short-spacing” status on existing U.S. stations; but the FCC said such “grandfathering” is not necessary.

It also updated the rules regarding stations near the Mexican border. At NAB’s suggestion, it clarified that, for the purposes of a table associated with the relevant rule, U.S. Class C0 assignments or allotments are considered Class C.

It adopted an NAB suggestion about how distances are calculated for the border agreements. It also updated the rules to eliminate inconsistent language and reflect current treaty requirements applicable to FM translators.

But the FCC did NOT adopt a proposal to eliminate the requirement that applications proposing use of FM transmitting antennas within 60 meters of other FM or TV broadcast antennas must include a showing as to the expected effect.

The National Association of Broadcasters had objected, saying this would weaken the FCC’s “newcomer policy,” under which a party constructing a new or modified facility is responsible for eliminating objectionable interference to existing stations.

The commission noted that in the FM service, it has rarely if ever expressly relied on the rules as a means of implementing the “newcomer policy,” but it concluded that the rule provides useful guidance for broadcasters. “We do not wish to introduce uncertainty or ambiguity into situations where it does not currently exist.”

[Read the complete FCC order.]

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