At the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council’s Broadband and Social Justice Summit this morning, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced that the agency has circulated a Petition For Rulemaking to seek public input on creating a new Class C4 for FM stations.
SSR Communications, owner of Talk 103.9 WYAB Pocahontas MS and the MMTC first proposed the creation of Class C4 in 2013 to allow stations in Zone II the potential to upgrade from Class A, but not all the way to C3. The original proposal sought to allow stations the equivalent of 12kW from a reference antenna height of 100 meters above average terrain whereas Class A is 6kW/100m and C3 is 25kW/100m.
In a FAQ sheet about the potential new classification, SSR CEO Matthew Wesolowski states that approximately 800 FM Class A could be eligible to upgrade their power or eliminate their directional antenna patterns. They also state that an October 2016 study of 216 potential stations to upgrade found that not one translator would be forced to sign-off due to lack of new channels to move to. Of course that was before the two new filing windows that will have added over 1500 new translators nationally.
MMTC has also been a long-time proponent of creating a new class of FM radio stations, called C4. This reform could allow hundreds of Class A FM stations to broadcast with increased power. In particular, MMTC has noted that this “could help small and minority-owned stations gain access to capital and strengthen their foothold in the broadcasting arena.” This idea has been sitting around for a while—long before I got into this position.
Well, I can now say that it’s standing up. I’m pleased to announce that just yesterday afternoon, our Media Bureau circulated a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that seeks public input on whether to amend our rules to create Class C4 FM radio stations. As this proceeding moves forward, you can be sure that we’ll be looking to MMTC for your insight and expertise.