[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 224 (Wednesday, November 20, 2013)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 69629-69639]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-27838]



[[Page 69629]]

=======================================================================
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION

47 CFR Part 73

[MB Docket No. 13-249; FCC 13-139]


Revitalization of the AM Radio Service

AGENCY: Federal Communications Commission.

ACTION: Notice of proposed rulemaking.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: In this document, the Commission adopted a Notice of Proposed 
Rulemaking (NPRM), seeking comment on a number of procedures designed 
to revitalize the AM broadcast radio service, and to ease regulatory 
burdens on existing AM broadcasters. The Commission also solicits 
further comments and suggestions designed to foster the revitalization 
of the AM broadcast radio service.

DATES: Comments may be filed no later than January 21, 2014 and reply 
comments may be filed no later than February 18, 2014. Written comments 
on the Paperwork Reduction Act proposed information collection 
requirements must be submitted by the public, Office of Management and 
Budget (OMB), and other interested parties on or before January 21, 
2014.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, identified by MB Docket No. 13-249, 
by any of the following methods:
    [ssquf] Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. 
Follow the instructions for submitting comments.
    [ssquf] Federal Communications Commission's Web site: http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/ecfs/. Follow the instructions for submitting comments.
    [ssquf] Email: ecfs@fcc.gov. Include the docket number in the 
subject line of the message. See the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section 
of this document for detailed information on how to submit comments by 
email.
    [ssquf] Mail: 445 12th Street SW., Washington, DC 20554.
    [ssquf] People with Disabilities: Contact the FCC to request 
reasonable accommodations (accessible format documents, sign language 
interpreters, CART, etc.) by email: FCC504@fcc.gov or phone: 202-418-
0530 or TTY: 202-418-0432.
    For detailed instructions for submitting comments and additional 
information on the rulemaking process, see the SUPPLEMENTARY 
INFORMATION section of this document.
    PRA comments should be submitted to Cathy Williams, Federal 
Communications Commission via email at PRA@fcc.gov and 
Cathy.Williams@fcc.gov and Nicholas A. Fraser, Office of Management and 
Budget via fax at 202-395-5167 or via email to Nicholas_A._Fraser@omb.eop.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Peter Doyle, Chief, Media Bureau, 
Audio Division, (202) 418-2700; Thomas Nessinger, Senior Counsel, Media 
Bureau, Audio Division, (202) 418-2700.
    For additional information concerning the Paperwork Reduction Act 
information collection requirements contained in this document, contact 
Cathy Williams at 202-418-2918, or via the Internet at 
Cathy.Williams@fcc.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This is a summary of the Commission's Notice 
of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), FCC 13-139, adopted October 29, 2013, 
and released October 31, 2013.

Initial Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 Analysis

    This NPRM contains proposed information collection requirements. It 
will be submitted to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for 
review under section 3507(d) of the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 
(PRA), Public Law 104-13, 109 Stat 163 (1995). The Commission, as part 
of its continuing effort to reduce paperwork burdens, invites the 
general public and OMB to comment on the proposed information 
collection requirements contained in this NPRM, as required by the PRA. 
Public and agency comments on the PRA proposed information collection 
requirements are due January 21, 2014. Comments should address: (a) 
Whether the proposed collection of information is necessary for the 
proper performance of the functions of the Commission, including 
whether the information shall have practical utility; (b) the accuracy 
of the Commission's burden estimates; (c) ways to enhance the quality, 
utility, and clarity of the information collected; and (d) ways to 
minimize the burden of the collection of information on the 
respondents, including the use of automated collection techniques or 
other forms of information technology. In addition, pursuant to the 
Small Business Paperwork Relief Act of 2002, Public Law 107-198, 116 
Stat 729 (2002), see 44 U.S.C. 3506(c)(4), the Commission seeks 
specific comment on how it might ``further reduce the information 
collection burden for small business concerns with fewer than 25 
employees.''
    To view a copy of this information collection request (ICR) 
submitted to OMB: (1) Go to the Web page http://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/PRAMain, (2) look for the section of the Web page called ``Currently 
Under Review,'' (3) click on the downward-pointing arrow in the 
``Select Agency'' box below the ``Currently Under Review'' heading, (4) 
select ``Federal Communications Commission'' from the list of agencies 
presented in the ``Select Agency'' box, (5) click the ``Submit'' button 
to the right of the ``Select Agency'' box, (6) when the list of FCC 
ICRs currently under review appears, look for the Title of this ICR and 
then click on the ICR Reference Number. A copy of the FCC submission to 
OMB will be displayed.
    The following information collection requirements would be 
initiated if the proposed rules contained in the NPRM are adopted.
    OMB Control Number: 3060-xxxx.
    Title: AM Station Modulation Dependent Carrier Level (MDCL) 
Notification Form; FCC Form 338.
    Form Number: FCC Form 338.
    Type of Review: New information collection.
    Respondents: Business or other for-profit entities; Not-for-profit 
institutions.
    Number of Respondents and Responses: 100 respondents and 100 
responses.
    Estimated Hours per Response: 1 hour.
    Frequency of Response: On occasion reporting requirement.
    Total Annual Burden: 100 hours.
    Total Annual Costs: None.
    Obligation to Respond: Required to obtain or retain benefits. The 
statutory authority for this information collection is contained in 
Sections 154(i), 303, 310 and 533 of the Communications Act of 1934, as 
amended.
    Nature and Extent of Confidentiality: There is no need for 
confidentiality required with this collection of information.
    Privacy Impact Assessment: No impact(s).
    Needs and Uses: On October 31, 2013, the Commission released the 
Notice of Proposed Rule Making, Revitalization of the AM Radio Service 
(NPRM), FCC 13-139, MB Docket No. 13-249. In the NPRM, the Commission 
recognized that in September 2011, the Media Bureau (Bureau) had 
released an MDCL Public Notice, in which it stated that it would permit 
AM stations, by rule waiver or experimental authorization, to use 
transmitter control techniques that vary either the carrier power level 
or both the carrier and sideband power levels as a function of the 
modulation level. This allows AM licensees to reduce power consumption 
while maintaining audio quality and their licensed station coverage 
areas. These techniques are

[[Page 69630]]

known as Modulation Dependent Carrier Level (MDCL) control 
technologies.
    There are two basic types of MDCL control technologies. In one 
type, the carrier power is reduced at low modulation levels and 
increased at higher modulation levels. In the other type, there is full 
carrier power at low modulation levels and reduced carrier power and 
sideband powers at higher modulation levels. Use of any of these MDCL 
control technologies reduces the station's antenna input power to 
levels not permitted by 47 CFR 73.1560(a).
    The MDCL Public Notice permitted AM station licensees wanting to 
use MDCL control technologies to seek either a permanent waiver of 47 
CFR 73.1560(a) for those licensees already certain of the particular 
MDCL control technology to be used, or an experimental authorization 
pursuant to 47 CFR 73.1510 for those licensees wishing to determine 
which of the MDCL control technologies would result in maximum cost 
savings and minimum effects on the station's coverage area and audio 
quality. Since release of the MDCL Public Notice, 33 permanent waiver 
requests and 20 experimental requests authorizing use of MDCL control 
technologies have been granted by the Bureau.
    AM station licensees using MDCL control technologies have reported 
significant savings on electrical power costs and few, if any, 
perceptible effects on station coverage area and audio quality. 
Accordingly, the NPRM tentatively concluded that use of MDCL control 
technologies reduces AM broadcasters' operating costs while maintaining 
a station's current level of service to the public, without 
interference to other stations. The Commission therefore, proposed 
wider implementation of MDCL control technologies by amending 47 CFR 
73.1560(a), to provide that an AM station may commence operation using 
MDCL control technology without prior Commission authority, provided 
that the AM station licensee notifies the Commission of the station's 
MDCL control operation within 10 days after commencement of such 
operation using the Bureau's Consolidated Database System (CDBS). The 
NPRM solicits comments on the proposed rule change, as well as on the 
potential adverse effects of allowing AM stations to commence MDCL 
control technology operation without prior Commission authority. The 
NPRM also seeks comment as to the potential adverse effects, if any, of 
MDCL control technology implementation on other AM stations.
    Consistent with the NPRM's proposal to allow AM broadcasters to 
implement MDCL technologies without prior authorization, by electronic 
notification within 10 days of commencing MDCL operations, the 
Commission created FCC Form 338, AM Station Modulation Dependent 
Carrier Level (MDCL) Notification. In addition to the standard general 
contact information, FCC Form 338 solicits minimal technical data, as 
well as the date that MDCL control operation commenced. This new 
information collection regarding FCC Form 338 needs OMB review and 
approval.
    The following rule section is covered by this information 
collection and requires OMB approval:
    47 CFR 73.1560(a)(1) specifies the limits on antenna input power 
for AM stations. AM stations using MDCL control technologies are not 
required to adhere to these operating power parameters. AM stations 
may, without prior Commission authority, commence MDCL control 
technology use, provided that within ten days after commencing such 
operation, the licensee submits an electronic notification of 
commencement of MDCL operation using FCC Form 338.

Summary of Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

    1. The AM broadcast service is the oldest broadcasting service. For 
decades, it has been an integral part of American culture. Today, AM 
radio remains an important source of broadcast entertainment and 
information programming, particularly for locally oriented content. AM 
broadcasters provide unique, community-based programming to distinguish 
themselves from other media sources in an increasingly competitive mass 
media market, such as all-news/talk, all-sports, foreign language, and 
religious programming formats. Local programming is also prevalent on 
the AM dial, including discussions of local news, politics and public 
affairs, traffic announcements, and coverage of community events such 
as high school athletic contests.
    2. The sustainability of the AM broadcast service has been 
threatened by the migration of AM listeners to newer media services, 
due to AM's technical limitations and the relative lack of consumer-
friendly features such as real-time data and information displays. The 
AM band is also subject to interference concerns not faced by other 
broadcast sources. First, due to the nighttime propagation 
characteristics of AM signals, many AM stations are unable to operate 
at night, and many others must reduce operating power substantially 
and/or use a complex directional antenna system in order to avoid 
interference to co- and adjacent-channel AM stations at night. As a 
result, many AM stations are unable to serve sizeable portions of their 
audiences in the evening hours, and still others can provide no 
protected nighttime service. Second, reinforced structures, such as 
buildings with steel frames or aluminum siding, can block AM signals, 
hindering AM reception in urban areas where such structures are 
prevalent. Third, AM radio is particularly susceptible to interference 
from electronic devices of all types, including such ubiquitous items 
as TV sets, vehicle engines, fluorescent lighting, computers, and power 
lines, and noise from those sources is only expected to increase as 
electronic devices continue to proliferate. This combination of higher 
fidelity alternatives and increased interference to AM radio has led to 
a steady decline in listenership to AM radio, which was once the 
dominant form of audio entertainment. By 2010, AM listenership had 
decreased to just 17 percent of radio listening hours, with the decline 
being sharpest among younger listeners. The popularity of AM stations 
versus FM facilities is also on the decline: AM listening dropped by 
roughly 200,000 listeners between 2011 and 2012, while FM listenership 
increased during that time. Between 1990 and 2010, the number of AM 
stations decreased by 197 stations while the number of FM stations 
almost doubled.
    3. The Commission has previously made efforts to revitalize the AM 
band. In 1991 the Commission adopted a comprehensive AM improvement 
plan. Review of the Technical Assignment Criteria for the AM Broadcast 
Service, Report and Order, 6 FCC Rcd 6273, 6275 (1991). That plan 
included three principal elements. First, new and revised AM technical 
standards were promulgated to reduce interference within AM stations' 
primary service areas. Second, ten ``expanded band'' frequencies 
(situated between 1605-1705 kHz) were opened to relocate select AM 
stations whose migration to those frequencies would significantly abate 
interference in the existing AM band. Finally, various measures were 
adopted affording broadcasters greater latitude and incentives to 
reduce interference through non-technical means. Additionally, in the 
past several years the Commission has instituted several discrete 
changes in its AM rules and policies designed to further

[[Page 69631]]

enhance the AM service or reduce regulatory and technical burdens on AM 
broadcasters. These include streamlined procedures for employing 
alternative antennas, proposing community of license modifications, and 
directional antenna proofs of performance. These also include the 
authorization of rebroadcasting AM primary stations over FM translator 
stations, and the authorization of Modulation Dependent Carrier Level 
(MDCL) control technologies. On the heels of these AM improvement 
measures, the Commission initiated this rulemaking to consider 
additional options for revitalizing the AM band, in view of the 
significant technological, policy, and economic changes that have 
occurred in AM broadcasting since the Commission last did so in 1991. 
The NPRM sets forth some specific technical proposals and, where 
appropriate, proposed rule revisions. The Commission seeks comment on 
these proposals, as well as any other ideas for improving the quality 
of the AM radio service.
    4. Open FM Translator Filing Window Exclusively for AM Licensees 
and Permittees. Under the Commission's current rules, AM stations are 
allowed to use authorized FM translator stations (i.e., those now 
licensed or authorized with construction permits that have not expired) 
to rebroadcast their AM signals, provided that no portion of the 60 
dB[micro] contour of any such FM translator station extends beyond the 
lesser of (a) a 25-mile radius from the AM transmitter site, and (b) 
the 2 millivolts per meter (mV/m) daytime contour of the AM station. 
When an AM broadcaster acquires an FM translator, the broadcaster 
typically must relocate the translator both to meet the station's needs 
and to comply with the coverage contour requirements outlined above. 
Under the Commission's current FM translator rules, changes to FM 
translator facilities can be either major or minor. A major change is 
one either proposing a translator frequency more than three channels 
from its currently authorized transmitting frequency that is also not 
an intermediate frequency, or a physical move to a location at which 
the proposed 1 mV/m contour does not overlap with the currently 
authorized 1 mV/m contour, as well as any change in frequency 
relocating an unbuilt translator station from the non-reserved band to 
the reserved band, or vice-versa. 47 CFR 74.1233(a)(1). Applications 
for such major changes may only be made during specific announced 
filing windows. 47 CFR 74.1233(d)(2)(i). However, an FM translator 
owner may make a minor change--which meets both channel and contour 
overlap requirements described above--at any time.
    5. The regulatory distinction between major and minor changes has 
led some translator licensees to attempt what would otherwise be 
dismissed as impermissible major changes, by filing multiple minor 
modification applications to ``hop'' the translator to new locations. 
Although not specifically prohibited by rule, this practice subverts 
the purpose of the Commission's minor change requirement and, 
therefore, the Commission's Media Bureau has concluded that the 
Commission may deny applications resulting in multiple ``hops'' 
pursuant to Section 308(a) of the Communications Act of 1934, as 
amended (47 U.S.C. 308(a)). At the same time, however, the contour 
overlap requirements for relocating FM translators, coupled with the 
fill-in coverage area restrictions on locating FM translators for use 
by AM broadcasters, limit the supply of available FM translators for 
individual AM licensees. Although a new FM translator filing window 
might alleviate this situation, opening the window to all applicants 
would require AM broadcasters seeking to establish new fill-in 
translators to compete at auction with other, non-AM broadcaster 
applicants, many of whom might foreclose opportunities for AM-
rebroadcast translators by proposing mutually exclusive translator 
facilities, while others might apply within the contours of AM stations 
for the specific purpose of obstructing a local AM broadcaster from 
acquiring a translator station, forcing it to do business with the 
winning bidder. While there is a public interest in robust and 
competitive auctions in services subject to our competitive bidding 
procedures, there is also a compelling public interest in maintaining 
the vitality and utility of the AM service.
    6. Accordingly, the Commission tentatively concluded that it should 
afford an opportunity, restricted to AM licensees and permittees, to 
apply for and receive authorizations for new FM translator stations for 
the sole and limited purpose of enhancing their existing service to the 
public. It therefore proposed to open a one-time filing window during 
which only AM broadcasters may participate, and in which each may apply 
for one, and only one, new FM translator station, in the non-reserved 
FM band (FM Channels 221-300), to be used solely to re-broadcast the 
broadcaster's AM signal to provide fill-in and/or nighttime service. 
The Commission proposed that the window would have the following 
conditions and limitations:
    a. Eligible applicants must be AM broadcast licensees or 
permittees, and may apply for only one FM translator per AM station. 
The Commission tentatively concluded that this requirement is 
necessary, as AM broadcasters forced to rely on translators owned by 
other licensees and permittees run the risk that the FM translator 
owner might choose, for example, to relocate the translator to an area 
that does not fill in the AM station's daytime signal contour, or might 
opt to rebroadcast another primary station.
    b. Applications for FM translators in this window must strictly 
comply with the existing fill-in coverage area technical restrictions 
on FM translators for AM stations, that is, must be located so that no 
part of the 60 dB[micro] contour of the FM translator will extend 
beyond the smaller of a 25-mile radius from the AM station's 
transmitter site, or the AM station's daytime 2 mV/m contour.
    c. Any FM translator station authorized pursuant to this window 
will be permanently linked to the AM primary station acquiring it. That 
is, the FM translator station may only be authorized to the licensee or 
permittee of the AM primary station it rebroadcasts, rather than an 
independent party; the FM translator may only be used to rebroadcast 
the signal of the AM station to which it is linked (or originate 
nighttime programming during periods when a daytime-only AM station is 
not operating); and the authorization for such an FM translator station 
will only be issued subject to the condition that it may not be 
assigned or transferred except in conjunction with the primary AM 
station that it re-broadcasts and with which it is commonly owned. The 
Commission tentatively concluded that these conditions are necessary to 
accomplish the goals of the proposed filing window, as stated above. It 
makes little sense to provide AM broadcasters with an opportunity to 
enhance their service by applying for and receiving authorizations for 
new FM translator stations if those stations may then be assigned or 
transferred to independent parties unaffiliated with the primary AM 
stations, or used to rebroadcast other primary station signals.
    The Commission seeks comment on these proposals.
    7. The Commission seeks comment as to whether this window can be 
limited to AM incumbents, as proposed. The Commission tentatively 
concluded that this eligibility restriction is consistent with the 
rights of potential applicants

[[Page 69632]]

under Ashbacker Radio Co. v. FCC, 326 U.S. 327 (1945), which 
establishes a right to a hearing when two bona fide applications are 
mutually exclusive. The United States Court of Appeals for the District 
of Columbia Circuit has held that 47 U.S.C. 309(e) ``does not preclude 
the FCC from establishing threshold standards to identify qualified 
applicants and excluding those applicants who plainly fail to meet the 
standards.'' Hispanic Information and Telecommunications Network v. 
FCC, 865 F.2d 1289, 1294 (D.C. Cir. 1989). Moreover, the subsequent 
enactment of auction authority under section 309(j) of the 
Communications Act, 47 U.S.C. 309(j), reaffirmed the Commission's 
``obligation in the public interest to continue to use . . . threshold 
qualifications . . . in order to avoid mutual exclusivity in 
application and licensing proceedings.'' 47 U.S.C. 309(j)(6)(E).
    8. The Commission believes that the proposed requirements outlined 
in the NPRM are narrowly tailored to address the daunting technical and 
competitive challenges that AM broadcasters face, to provide efficient 
and expeditious assistance to such broadcasters and, thus, to promote a 
more robust and sustainable AM broadcast service. These conditions 
would sharply limit the number of filings, resulting in fewer mutually 
exclusive proposals and faster application processing, and would also 
prevent speculative filings, an issue of some concern from the 
Commission's experience with the FM translator applications received in 
Auction 83. In contrast, an open window could frustrate the goal of 
providing expeditious relief to AM broadcasters. It will be necessary 
to undertake a close review of FM translator licensing rules before 
opening a general FM translator window. Although the Commission intends 
to revise the FM translator rules, and to provide further opportunities 
for all interested applicants to apply for FM translator permits, it 
has tentatively concluded that an applicant-limited and technically 
limited window such as proposed here will provide immediate benefits to 
the AM service without materially affecting future FM translator window 
applicants. The Commission invites comment on these tentative 
conclusions. Specifically, the Commission asks commenters to address 
the problems faced by AM stations in today's marketplace, whether a 
window such as that proposed would significantly alleviate any problems 
identified, and whether commenters believe that further modifications 
to the proposed parameters for the window are necessary to address 
those specific problems (for example, additional or different 
requirements to be met by potential applicants; limitation of 
eligibility to licensees or permittees of certain class stations, e.g., 
Class C and D stations only, or to ``stand alone'' AM stations). 
Commenters may also discuss their experiences with using FM translators 
to augment AM service under existing rules, and whether there are 
currently a sufficient number of FM translator stations that are 
technically suited to meet the demand for AM fill-in service. The 
Commission also requests that commenters address the impact of such an 
FM translator window on FM full-power licensees, small businesses, 
businesses owned by minority groups and women, other FM translator 
licensees, and low-power FM (LPFM) broadcasters. Are there any 
obstacles or disadvantages to opening an FM translator filing window 
exclusively for AM licensees and permittees?
    9. Given the unqualified success of the Commission's introduction 
of cross-service FM translators in 2009, the Commission believes that a 
narrowly tailored filing window for such FM translators, as proposed 
herein, could yield significant public interest benefits with little to 
no detriment either to the FM translator service or to licensing 
opportunities for LPFM stations, especially since the filing window 
proposed here will follow the 2013 LPFM filing window. The Commission 
solicits comment on both the proposal to open a filing window and the 
operational details of such a window, as well as the effects on the FM, 
FM translator, and LPFM services. The Commission also seeks comment on 
whether, between the relaxation of the limitation on FM translators 
that can be used to rebroadcast AM station signals, and the AM-only FM 
translator window proposed here, there will no longer be a need for so-
called ``Mattoon Waivers.'' If the Commission does end the Mattoon 
Waiver policy, should it be eliminated upon adoption of the proposed 
AM-only translator window or upon the opening of that window?
    10. Modify Daytime Community Coverage Standards for Existing AM 
Stations. Under the daytime community coverage rule, a commercial radio 
station must provide daytime coverage to its entire community of 
license (47 CFR 73.24(i), 73.315(a)), although the Commission has a 
longstanding policy to waive the rule, so long as the requesting 
licensee makes an appropriate showing that it will encompass 80 percent 
of the community of license's area or population within the station's 5 
mV/m contour. The Commission adopted this rule in order to provide 
sufficient signal coverage to the designated community of license. The 
Minority Media Telecommunications Council (MMTC), in a 2009 petition 
for rulemaking filed with the Commission, suggested that this rule, 
along with the inherent difficulties of finding suitable tower sites in 
urban areas, actually harms the public interest by ``limit[ing] 
commercial stations from changing sites and making other improvements 
that benefit the public interest.'' Review of Technical Policies and 
Rules Presenting Obstacles to Implementation of Section 307(b) of the 
Communications Act and to the Promotion of Diversity and Localism, MMTC 
Radio Rescue Petition for Rulemaking, RM-11565, at 15 (Jul. 20, 2009) 
(Radio Rescue Petition). If a commercial station wants to change its 
site or make improvements, it must demonstrate that the station would 
cover at least 80 percent of the community from the new site. MMTC 
maintains that this is often impossible and usually leads to protracted 
and resource-intensive waiver proceedings.
    11. MMTC proposed that the Commission amend the daytime AM coverage 
standard to require a station to provide coverage to 50 percent of its 
community of license with a signal of at least 60 dB[micro], contending 
that under this standard, the remaining 50 percent of the community, in 
nearly all cases, would still receive a very listenable signal. MMTC 
argued that the proposed rule modification could provide AM stations 
with greater flexibility in making station improvements without 
frustrating the rule's original purpose, and would provide AM 
broadcasters, including small, women, and minority broadcasters, with 
additional flexibility for site location. The Commission has previously 
noted that sites suitable for AM antennas are increasingly difficult 
(and expensive) to find. Additionally, when the Commission modified the 
community coverage rule for noncommercial educational (NCE) FM stations 
in 2000, it recognized that permitting NCE FM stations to cover 50 
percent of the community of license ``should ensure sufficient 
flexibility in siting facilities and reaching target audiences.'' 
Streamlining of Radio Technical Rules in Parts 73 and 74 of the 
Commission's Rules, Second Report and Order, 15 FCC Rcd 21649, 21670 
(2000).
    12. While agreeing with MMTC that AM tower siting has become 
increasingly difficult, especially for those AM stations requiring 
multi-tower arrays and those located in and near large urban areas, the 
Commission also

[[Page 69633]]

recognized the value of principal community coverage as part of the 
commitment to broadcast localism and the fair, efficient, and equitable 
distribution of radio service under 47 U.S.C. 307(b). The Commission 
stated its belief that an applicant for a new AM facility or change of 
community of license, as part of its due diligence when evaluating its 
proposal for new service, should specify a transmitter site that 
enables daytime and nighttime coverage under existing standards, 
namely, coverage of 100 percent of the community of license with a 
principal community signal (5 mV/m) during the day, and coverage of 80 
percent of the community of license with a nighttime interference-free 
(NIF) signal at night. The Commission has previously held that AM 
coverage of less than 80 percent of the residential area of a community 
is generally considered to be inadequate, and saw no reason to allow an 
applicant proposing a new AM station or community of license change to 
propose facilities with sub-standard signal coverage. An applicant for 
a new AM station or community of license change should be able to 
evaluate whether it is able to secure transmission facilities that will 
enable it to provide adequate community coverage; if it cannot do so, 
it should not propose a new station. An existing station, however, 
especially one that has been in the same location for many years, may 
not have the same flexibility to provide community coverage, due to 
changes in city boundaries and population distribution, and perhaps due 
to the loss of unique transmitter sites and the unavailability of 
acceptable new sites.
    13. The Commission therefore proposed to modify the daytime 
community coverage requirement contained in 47 CFR 73.24(i), for 
licensed AM facilities only, to require that the station cover either 
50 percent of the population or 50 percent of the area of the community 
of license with a daytime 5 mV/m principal community signal. The 
Commission seeks comment on this proposed rule change. Specifically, 
what would be the effect on AM broadcasters and the public in general 
of modifying the rule? Commenters should describe and, if possible, 
quantify the costs and benefits of this proposal to broadcasters and 
the public. Would modifying the rule improve broadcaster flexibility in 
siting AM facilities and reaching target audiences? Would modification 
of the rule provide greater benefits to small AM stations and minority 
broadcasters? Conversely, would modification of the rule provide sub-
standard signal quality to significant portions of a community of 
license? Would it be better to modify the daytime community coverage 
standard for all AM application types, including those for new stations 
and those seeking to change community of license? Alternatively, should 
the Commission retain the existing AM daytime coverage requirements for 
all stations, subject to waiver on an appropriate showing? The 
Commission asks that broadcasters discuss with specificity issues they 
have encountered when they try to comply with the daytime community 
coverage rule, particularly instances in which the rule may have 
prevented them from implementing beneficial station improvements.
    14. Modify Nighttime Community Coverage Standards for Existing AM 
Stations. Under the Commission's current rules, many AM radio stations 
are required to reduce their power or cease operating at night in order 
to avoid interference to other AM radio stations. See 47 CFR 73.182. 
During daytime hours, AM signals travel principally by groundwave 
conduction over the surface of the earth, and generally can be heard 
within a maximum radius of 100 miles. However, at night AM signals that 
are broadcast at the same power level reflect from the ionosphere back 
to the earth, and can travel over hundreds of miles. Thus, if an AM 
station maintained its daytime operating power level at night, 
significant ``skywave'' interference to other AM stations would result. 
As a result, most AM radio stations are required by the Commission's 
rules to reduce their power, sometimes drastically, or to cease 
operating at night altogether to avoid interference to other AM 
stations. However, the Commission's nighttime coverage rule also 
requires that non-Class D AM broadcasters maintain a signal at night 
sufficient to cause 80 percent of the area or population of the 
broadcaster's principal community to be ``encompassed by the nighttime 
5 mV/m contour or the nighttime interference-free contour, whichever 
value is higher.'' 47 CFR 73.24(i). Effectively, this means that AM 
broadcasters must continue serving the bulk of their community of 
license at night even though the Commission's rules mandate reduced 
maximum broadcast power levels.
    15. In the Radio Rescue Petition, MMTC observed, first, that 
requiring separate coverage requirements for daytime and nighttime 
significantly reduces the transmitter sites available to an AM station. 
Although one site may be optimal for daytime coverage, it may not meet 
the specifications required to comply with the nighttime coverage rule. 
As a result, some stations must operate two separate sites in order to 
comply with the rule. Second, MMTC argues that the nighttime coverage 
rule makes it more difficult for an AM broadcaster to relocate its 
station's antenna. When an antenna site becomes unusable--for example, 
due to increased interference caused by urban development in the 
surrounding area--the station may attempt to move to a more remote 
site. This attempt might be unsuccessful because changes in community 
and population coverage would take the station out of compliance with 
the nighttime coverage rule. Third, the nighttime coverage rule 
provides an entry barrier by requiring that broadcasters either 
demonstrate substantial compliance with the rule in an application for 
a new site or submit a waiver request demonstrating that the FCC should 
grant an exception to the rule.
    16. As stated above, the Commission acknowledged the difficulties 
faced by existing AM broadcasters with regard to antenna siting. It 
also recognized, however, the value of nighttime service to 
communities, especially those with little or no FM or other local 
nighttime AM service. In fact, because of their service limitations the 
Commission no longer authorizes new Class D AM stations, which are 
daytime-only or provide only secondary, unprotected nighttime service. 
47 CFR 73.21(a)(3). The Commission also stated that applicants for new 
AM stations, or those proposing to change their community of license, 
should provide some level of nighttime service, for the same reasons 
set forth above in the daytime AM coverage section. That is, an 
applicant proposing new service or a new community of license should be 
able to base its decision on whether it can find a site from which it 
can provide the required coverage, whereas an incumbent station may be 
constrained from finding a new site from which to cover a community 
that may have grown since the station was first licensed. The 
Commission therefore tentatively concluded that the nighttime coverage 
requirement should be eliminated for existing licensed AM stations, and 
should be modified to require that new AM stations and AM stations 
seeking a change to their communities of license cover either 50 
percent of the population or 50 percent of the area of the community of 
license with a nighttime 5 mV/m signal or an NIF contour, whichever 
value is higher. The Commission seeks comment on this

[[Page 69634]]

proposal. Is the rule mandating minimum nighttime coverage for existing 
AM stations still necessary and desirable in light of the difficulties 
it poses and the number of waivers that are needed? What would be the 
benefit, if any, to AM broadcasters and to the public in general of 
eliminating the nighttime coverage requirement? What negative 
consequences to other AM stations or to the public in general, if any, 
would result from eliminating the rule? Would eliminating the rule, as 
MMTC has suggested, afford AM stations much greater flexibility in site 
selection and ability to move farther away from developed and costly 
downtown areas? Would eliminating the rule allow AM broadcasters to 
reduce their costs by improving their ability to move out of areas with 
high property values? Conversely, would eliminating the rule deprive 
communities of needed nighttime service? Should the Commission require 
the station's nighttime transmitter site and nighttime interference-
free contour to be completely within the station's predicted daytime 
protected 0.5 mV/m or 2 mV/m contour, to ensure that the station serves 
at least part of the area in the vicinity of its community of license?
    17. To the extent commenters believe that the nighttime coverage 
rule has continued utility, but perhaps merits modification other than 
that proposed here, they are asked to submit proposals for such 
modification, and to discuss how a modified nighttime coverage rule 
might benefit AM broadcasters and serve the public. For example, rather 
than eliminating the rule entirely, should the Commission consider 
relaxing the coverage requirement from 80 percent to 50 percent for 
existing stations, as the Commission did when adopting the rules for 
the AM expanded band, and as proposed above for daytime coverage? Would 
an across-the-board nighttime 50 percent coverage rule, as the 
Commission concluded in adopting the standard for the expanded AM band, 
insure a signal of significant quality to the community of license and 
the added flexibility to locate facilities at cost effective locations? 
Would the same be true for all AM broadcasters, whether in the standard 
or the expanded band? Alternatively, should the Commission retain the 
AM nighttime coverage requirements in their current form, subject to 
waiver on a case-by-case basis and on an appropriate showing? Would the 
waiver process impose a significant burden on broadcasters encountering 
difficulties in providing adequate nighttime service? Should nighttime 
coverage requirements be retained for those stations that are the sole 
local transmission service at a community, or that provide the only 
nighttime service to a community or to a substantial population? 
Commenters should describe and, if possible, quantify the costs and 
benefits to broadcasters and the public of any rule modifications they 
support or propose.
    18. Eliminate the AM Ratchet Rule. Commission rules currently 
require that Class A and B stations comply with certain interference 
reduction requirements. One of these requirements is commonly known as 
the ``ratchet rule.'' This rule effectively requires that an AM 
broadcaster seeking to make facility changes, which would modify its AM 
signal, demonstrate that the improvements will result in an overall 
reduction in the amount of skywave interference that it causes to 
certain other AM stations. 47 CFR 73.182(a) n.1. In other words, the AM 
station proposing the modification must ``ratchet back'' its radiation 
at the pertinent vertical angle in the direction of certain other AM 
stations. The Commission adopted this rule to reduce interference in 
the AM band, but as discussed below, it appears that the rule may not 
have achieved its intended goal.
    14. In 2009, two broadcast engineering firms filed a petition with 
the Commission proposing to eliminate the ratchet rule. Modification of 
Section 73.182(q), Footnote 1, to Promote Improvement of Nighttime 
Service by AM Radio Stations by Eliminating the ``Ratchet Clause,'' 
Petition for Rulemaking, RM-11560 (Aug. 25, 2009) (``Ratchet Rule 
Petition''). The petitioners contended that the ratchet rule since its 
inception has been a ``serious impediment for stations wishing to make 
modifications to alleviate nighttime coverage difficulties due to noise 
and man-made interference.'' Ratchet Rule Petition at second unnumbered 
page, paragraph 3. According to the petitioners, the ratchet rule tends 
to discourage service improvements in general, because a station 
seeking to improve its service by transmitter relocation, pattern 
change, or other means as a practical matter must reduce its power to 
comply with the rule. This, argued the petitioners, more often than not 
results in a net loss of nighttime interference-free service. Moreover, 
the petitioners contended that the rule unduly disadvantages AM 
stations that have been on the air the longest, and that therefore have 
the lowest nighttime interference levels and largest coverage areas, in 
favor of reducing interference to newer stations that agreed to accept 
existing levels of interference when they began operations.
    15. Eight commenters on the Ratchet Rule Petition agreed that the 
ratchet rule should be repealed as it does not reduce harmful AM 
interference, and in fact inhibits AM facility modifications. The 
Commission's experience since the ratchet rule was adopted appears to 
bear out the arguments presented in the Ratchet Rule Petition and in 
the comments regarding the rule's efficacy. There is no dispute that 
the reduction in radiation required by the ratchet rule causes harm due 
to loss of nighttime coverage area to licensed stations that must 
relocate their transmitting facilities. Approximately 60 percent of the 
AM stations currently governed by the ratchet rule, and that apply to 
relocate their transmitting facilities, seek waiver of the rule in 
order to avoid nighttime coverage area losses so severe that the 
station could provide no more than nominal nighttime service. The 
Commission therefore tentatively concluded that the ratchet rule should 
be deleted, and proposed deleting note 1 to 47 CFR 73.182(q). The 
Commission seeks comment on this conclusion and proposed rule change. 
Is elimination of the ratchet rule both feasible and desirable? What 
would be the benefit to AM broadcasters, and to the listening public, 
of eliminating the rule? Would there be negative consequences to other 
AM stations and/or to listeners if the proposal to eliminate the 
ratchet rule were to be adopted? Does the ratchet rule, as the 
petitioners and commenters assert, tend to discourage service 
improvements in general? Conversely, does the ratchet rule continue to 
serve a valuable function in reducing the interference imposed by AM 
stations on other systems? Would elimination of the rule allow a 
broadcaster to change its facilities in ways that might increase the 
levels of interference that the broadcaster imposes on other stations 
beyond an acceptable threshold? Or are sufficient safeguards in place 
to prevent that result?
    16. Alternatively, are there aspects of the ratchet rule that are 
worth retaining, such that the Commission should modify the rule 
instead of deleting it, and if so what modifications should be made? 
Commenters are asked to discuss their specific experiences with the 
ratchet rule and any instances in which the rule prevented them or 
their clients from making beneficial station improvements. Commenters 
should also describe and, if possible, quantify the costs and benefits 
of this proposal, and any suggested alternatives, to broadcasters and 
to their service to the public. To the extent commenters prefer

[[Page 69635]]

modifying the ratchet rule to deleting it, they are urged to submit 
proposals for modifying the ratchet rule in order to allow broadcasters 
more latitude to make such improvements.
    17. Permit Wider Implementation of Modulation Dependent Carrier 
Level Control Technologies. In September 2011, the Media Bureau 
released a Public Notice (MDCL Public Notice), in which it stated that 
it would permit AM stations, by rule waiver or experimental 
authorization, to use transmitter control techniques that vary either 
the carrier power level or both the carrier and sideband power levels 
as a function of the modulation level. This allows AM licensees to 
reduce power consumption while maintaining audio quality and their 
licensed station coverage areas. These techniques are known as 
Modulation Dependent Carrier Level (MDCL) control technologies or 
algorithms. There are two basic types of MDCL control technologies. In 
one, the carrier power is reduced at low modulation levels and 
increased at higher modulation levels. Adaptive Carrier Control (ACC), 
Dynamic Amplitude Modulation (DAM), and Dynamic Carrier Control (DCC) 
are examples of this type of MDCL control technology. In the other 
type, there is full carrier power at low modulation levels and reduced 
carrier power and sideband powers at higher modulation levels. 
Amplitude Modulation Companding (AMC) is this type of MDCL control 
technology. Use of any of these MDCL control technologies reduces the 
station's antenna input power to levels not permitted by 47 CFR 
73.1560(a). The MDCL Public Notice permitted AM station licensees 
wanting to use MDCL control technologies to seek either a permanent 
waiver of 47 CFR 73.1560(a) for those licensees already certain of the 
particular MDCL control technology to be used, or an experimental 
authorization pursuant to 47 CFR 73.1510 (now governed by 47 CFR 5.203) 
for those licensees wishing to determine which of the MDCL control 
technologies would result in maximum cost savings and minimum effects 
on the station's coverage area and audio quality. Since release of the 
MDCL Public Notice, 33 permanent waiver requests and 20 experimental 
requests authorizing use of MDCL control technologies have been 
granted.
    18. AM station licensees using MDCL control technologies have 
reported significant savings on electrical power costs and few, if any, 
perceptible effects on station coverage area and audio quality. Based 
on the absence of either reported negative effects of using MDCL 
control technologies or interference complaints from other AM stations, 
we tentatively conclude that use of MDCL control technologies reduces 
AM broadcasters' operating costs while maintaining a station's current 
level of service to the public, without interference to other stations. 
The Commission therefore proposed to amend 47 CFR 73.1560(a) to provide 
that an AM station may commence operation using MDCL control technology 
(MDCL control operation) without prior Commission authority, provided 
that the AM station licensee notifies the Commission of the station's 
MDCL control operation within 10 days after commencement of such 
operation using the Bureau's Consolidated Database System (CDBS). 
Additionally, regardless of the MDCL control technology employed, the 
Commission proposed to require that the AM station's transmitter must 
achieve full licensed power at some audio input level, or when the MDCL 
control technology is disabled. This requirement will permit stations 
to use energy-saving MDCL technologies, which preserve licensed 
coverage areas, while distinguishing between such operations and simple 
reductions in transmitter power, which do not. The Commission further 
proposed to require an AM station using MDCL control technology to 
disable it before field strength measurements on the station are taken 
by the licensee or others. The Commission seeks comment on this 
proposal, including the benefits and potential harms of this proposal 
to broadcasters and its impact on service to the public, as well as 
potential cost savings to broadcasters. The Commission also seeks 
comment as to what notice an AM licensee or permittee employing MDCL 
control technology should receive from the Commission prior to 
measurements or inspections by Commission staff, and as to what the AM 
station's obligations should be in such situations. AM stations not 
using MDCL control technologies are required to adhere to the limits on 
antenna input power currently specified in 47 CFR 73.1560(a). Comments 
are sought on the proposed rule change, as well as on the potential 
adverse effects of allowing AM stations to commence MDCL control 
technology operation without prior Commission authority. The Commission 
also seeks comment as to the potential adverse effects, if any, of MDCL 
control technology implementation on other AM stations.
    19. Two domestic AM transmitter manufacturers currently offer MDCL 
control technologies for use with their transmitters. Other AM 
transmitter manufacturers may be developing MDCL control technologies 
for use with their transmitters and, reportedly, other third-party 
vendors offer or are planning to offer external MDCL control adapters. 
Should the Commission require an AM station licensee to use only an 
MDCL control technology developed and implemented by the manufacturer 
of the station's transmitter, or should it allow a station to use an 
MDCL control technology developed and implemented by another provider? 
Although the Commission currently does not require an AM station 
licensee to disclose the make and model of its transmitter, should it 
require an AM licensee commencing operation using MDCL control 
technology to inform the Commission of the make and model of its 
transmitter, as well as the particular MDCL control technology being 
used?
    20. In the MDCL Public Notice, the Commission stated that initial 
tests by transmitter manufacturers showed that MDCL control 
technologies are compatible with hybrid AM digital operation at the 
transmitter; that the National Radio System Committee (NRSC) had 
recently convened a subcommittee to investigate the effects of MDCL 
control technologies on the hybrid AM digital signal, especially at the 
receiver; and that receiver compatibility tests were underway. Based on 
these facts, the Commission permitted AM stations operating hybrid AM 
digital facilities to implement MDCL control technologies, provided 
that the hybrid signal continues to comply with the spectral emissions 
mask requirements in 47 CFR 73.44, and that the relative level of the 
analog AM signal to the digital AM signal remains constant. In April 
2013, the NRSC published the NRSC MDCL Guideline, in which it concluded 
that, ``[c]onsidering the effect that MDCL has on the signal, as well 
as the practical limitations of transmitter technology, caution is 
advised when implementing hybrid AM IBOC with MDCL.'' NRSC MDCL 
Guideline NRSC-G101, ``AM Modulation-Dependent Carrier Level (MDCL) 
Usage Guideline,'' at 16. The NRSC cites the potential for increased 
out-of-band emissions and reduction of signal quality of the hybrid AM 
digital signal when stations operating hybrid AM analog and digital 
facilities implement MDCL control technologies, and reports that 
further studies regarding the compatibility of MDCL control 
technologies and hybrid AM digital operation will be undertaken. Since 
the effects of MDCL control technology on hybrid AM digital operation 
have not been conclusively

[[Page 69636]]

determined, and the Commission has received no interference complaints 
about AM stations operating with both MDCL control technology and 
hybrid digital facilities since release of the MDCL Public Notice, the 
Commission tentatively concluded that it should continue to permit all 
AM stations, including those operating hybrid AM analog and digital 
facilities, to implement MDCL control technologies without prior 
Commission authority. The continued operation of AM stations using MDCL 
control technology with hybrid AM digital facilities will allow further 
testing to determine the effect of the simultaneous use of MDCL control 
technologies and hybrid AM analog and digital facilities. The 
Commission seeks comment on this proposal.
    20. Modify AM Antenna Efficiency Standards. The Commission's 
minimum efficiency standards impose minimum requirements regarding the 
effective field strength of AM broadcast stations. See 47 CFR 73.45, 
73.186, 73.189. Under the Commission's rules, ``[a]ll applicants for 
new, additional, or different AM station facilities and all licensees 
requesting authority to change the transmitting system site of an 
existing station must specify an antenna system, the efficiency of 
which complies with the requirements for the class and power of 
station.'' 47 CFR 73.45(a). 47 CFR 73.189, which is referenced in 47 
CFR 73.45(a), explains that to satisfy the efficiency requirements, an 
antenna system must ``meet minimum height requirements, or . . . meet[] 
the minimum requirements with respect to field strength.'' 47 CFR 
73.189(b)(1). Thus, if an AM broadcaster's antenna does not satisfy the 
minimum height requirements, the broadcaster is required to ensure that 
the broadcast tower's effective field strength satisfies the minimum 
requirements contained in 47 CFR 73.184.
    21. MMTC proposes that the Commission replace ``minimum 
efficiency'' for AM antennas with ``minimum radiation'' in mV/m, 
thereby allowing AM stations to use very short antennas and enjoy more 
flexibility in site selection, including rooftop installations. Radio 
Rescue Petition at 20. Under MMTC's formulation, an AM broadcaster 
would only be required to show that the broadcast station produces a 
certain minimum level of radiation, contending that if the minimum 
radiation is achieved, efficiency levels are immaterial. MMTC states 
that the minimum efficiency standard originated in the 1920s when 
electric power was in short supply but land was abundantly available; 
now, however, MMTC contends that the relative availability of land and 
electric power are exactly reversed, necessitating re-evaluation of the 
regulation. MMTC believes that the current rule works a hardship on 
lower-frequency stations because larger antennas are needed to meet the 
efficiency standards at lower frequencies, which have longer 
wavelengths. Replacing the minimum efficiency standard with a minimum 
radiation standard, according to MMTC, would allow AM stations to use 
very short antennas and enjoy more flexibility in site selection, which 
in turn will enable small businesses and entrepreneurs to continue 
their operations by increasing power and using less land, thus 
providing the opportunity to move closer to larger, more viable areas.
    22. The Commission has previously observed that parcels of land 
suitable for AM towers and ground systems are less abundant and more 
expensive today than in the early days of radio broadcasting some 70-80 
years ago, especially in and near urbanized areas. However, the 
Commission questioned MMTC's other premise, that electricity is more 
plentiful and more readily available, finding that it is not well 
established in the record of the Radio Rescue Petition proceeding. The 
Commission also observed that the MMTC proposal is unclear as to both 
the exact problems that MMTC perceives with current regulations, the 
specifics of the rule or rules it proposes to eliminate or replace, and 
why its proposed solution is preferable. While MMTC's proposal calls 
for a ``minimum radiation'' standard expressed in mV/m, current rules 
already provide such a standard as an alternative to the minimum 
antenna heights set forth therein. 47 CFR 73.189(b)(1) states that good 
engineering practice requires an AM applicant either ``to install a new 
antenna system or to make changes in the existing antenna system which 
will meet the minimum height requirements, or submit evidence that the 
present antenna system meets the minimum requirements with respect to 
field strength, before favorable consideration will be given thereto.'' 
Thus, for Class B, Class D, and Alaskan Class A AM stations, an antenna 
must either meet the minimum height requirements set forth in curves A, 
B, and C of Figure 7 of 47 CFR 73.190, or must provide a minimum 
effective field strength of 282 mV/m for 1 kilowatt at 1 kilometer from 
the transmitter. 47 CFR 73.189(b)(2)(ii). The rules already provide for 
non-standard antennas, as long as they meet minimum field strength 
standards. It is unclear how the current rules differ from MMTC's 
proposed ``minimum radiation'' standard.
    23. However, while the record as to this proposal was not 
sufficiently developed to propose wholesale rule changes at this time, 
and accepting MMTC's claim that scarcity of land and height 
restrictions may restrict some AM broadcasters, especially those at 
lower frequencies and thus longer wavelengths, from installing antenna 
systems that can meet current Commission standards for AM 
transmissions, the Commission believed that reducing the existing 
minimum effective field strength values in 47 CFR 73.189(b) would offer 
AM broadcasters some relief by enabling them to propose shorter 
antennas. The Commission therefore seeks comment as to whether it 
should reduce the minimum field strength values set forth in 47 CFR 
73.182(m) and 73.189(b)(2)(i)-(iii) by approximately 25 percent, and 
revise 47 CFR 73.182(m) and 73.189(b)(2) accordingly. 47 CFR 73.182(m) 
and Note (2), 73.189(b)(2)(i)-(iii). The new minimum field strength 
values would be as follows: for Class C stations, and stations in 
Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands on 1230, 1240, 
1340, 1400, 1450, and 1490 kHz that were formerly Class C and were 
redesignated as Class B pursuant to 47 CFR 73.26(b), the minimum 
effective field strength would be 180 mV/m for 1 kW at 1 km (90 mV/m 
for 0.25 kW at 1 km); for Class A (Alaska), Class B, and Class D 
stations other than those covered in 47 CFR 73.189(b)(2)(i), the 
minimum effective field strength would be 215 mV/m for 1 kW at 1 km; 
and for Class A stations, a minimum effective field strength of 275 mV/
m for 1 kW at 1 km.
    24. What would be the benefit to AM broadcasters, or to the 
listening public, of reducing these values? What would be the impact on 
the public and the ability of stations to provide service to their 
communities? Would some other reduction be more appropriate? Would 
modifying the current minimum efficiency standards have negative 
consequences for other AM stations or the public? Have broadcasters, in 
particular those with lower-frequency stations, experienced 
difficulties in complying with the current rules? Would the proposed 
rule modifications provide AM broadcasters with more flexibility in 
site selection? The Commission asks that broadcasters discuss their 
specific experiences with the minimum efficiency standards and any 
instances in which the rules prevented or impeded a station from

[[Page 69637]]

changing location or using a lower-cost or more site-specific antenna 
system. The Commission also asks that commenters describe and, if 
possible, quantify the costs of the current minimum efficiency 
standards, and the corresponding benefits of this proposal or any 
suggested alternatives.
    25. To the extent that commenters believe that the minimum field 
strength values should be reduced further, eliminated entirely, or that 
other rule modifications be employed to provide AM broadcasters the 
relief sought by MMTC, the Commission asks that commenters provide 
specifics as to any proposed replacement or alternative standard for AM 
transmission systems, including radiation and/or field strength 
standards, antenna input power, and minimum specifications for AM 
towers and ground systems, and the respective potential costs and 
benefits of such proposals. The Commission seeks comment on technical 
and policy considerations that may limit the extent to which it can 
lessen efficiency requirements; specifically, it also seeks comment as 
to the potential interference and stability ramifications of lower 
efficiency transmission systems. Would such systems produce higher 
levels of skywave, groundwave, blanketing, or other forms of 
interference? Are the methods described in the current rules sufficient 
to assess the performance of systems of electrically very short 
antennas, or would other rule changes be required to permit the use of 
such antennas? Would they produce excess heat that would harm the 
transmission systems? Would they produce greater amounts of radio 
frequency radiation, requiring amendments to the Commission's fencing 
and other rules? Is there a limit to the extent to which AM antenna 
systems' efficiency can be lowered, to the point where such systems are 
no longer stable and cannot produce predictable radiation patterns? If 
so, are there potential rule modifications that can afford AM 
broadcasters the flexibility to build less efficient antenna systems 
than those specified by the standards in the rules, but without 
allowing them to expend needless time and expense on ultimately 
unstable transmission systems? The Commission requests that commenters 
provide details as to any proposed rule modifications, additions, or 
deletions.
    26. The Commission encourages all interested parties to comment on 
the specific proposals set forth in the NPRM, including the specific 
issues and questions posed by each, and to provide detailed analyses 
and exhibits in support of their comments. Commenters should describe 
and, to the extent possible, quantify both the costs and the benefits 
to the industry and to the public that would result from these 
proposals and any alternatives suggested in the comments. However, the 
foregoing proposals are not intended to be an exhaustive recitation of 
all the possible means of revitalizing the AM service. Rather, they 
constitute concrete proposals that can be implemented expeditiously to 
assist AM broadcasters in providing needed radio service to the public. 
The Commission recognizes that there are other ideas that have been 
proposed to assist in revitalizing AM radio. These include: changes to 
nighttime skywave protection for Class A AM stations; adopting rules to 
permit the permanent licensing of AM synchronous transmission systems; 
permitting or requiring stations to convert to all-digital AM 
operation; and modification of the pre-sunrise/post-sunset AM operating 
rules. These more complex suggested reforms would require additional 
comment, research, and analysis. The Commission therefore encourages 
parties to submit comments in this docket for the purpose of advancing 
these and other specific proposals to revitalize the AM service. In 
particular, the Commission asks parties to provide any proposals to 
improve the long-term future of the AM service, emphasizing that any 
such submissions should contain details as to the rule additions, 
deletions, or modifications sought, as well as specifics as to the 
reasons underlying any proposals submitted.
    27. Comments and Reply Comments. Pursuant to Sec. Sec.  1.415 and 
1.419 of the Commission's rules (47 CFR 1.415, 1.419), interested 
parties must file comments on or before January 21, 2014, and must file 
reply comments on or before February 18, 2014. Comments may be filed 
using: (1) The Commission's Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS); 
(2) the Federal Government's eRulemaking Portal, or (3) by filing paper 
copies.
    28. Comments may be filed electronically using the Internet by 
accessing the ECFS: http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs2/, or the Federal 
eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Filers should follow 
the instructions provided on the Web sites for submitting comments. For 
ECFS filers, if multiple docket or rulemaking numbers appear in the 
caption of this proceeding, filers must transmit one electronic copy of 
the comments for each docket or rulemaking number referenced in the 
caption. In completing the transmittal screen, filers should include 
their full name, U.S. Postal Service mailing address, and the 
applicable docket or rulemaking number. Parties may also submit an 
electronic comment by Internet email. To get filing instructions for 
email comments, commenters should send an email to ecfs@fcc.gov, and 
should include the following words in the body of the message, ``get 
form.'' A sample form and directions will be sent in response.
    29. Parties who choose to file by paper must file an original and 
one copy of each filing. If more than one docket or rulemaking number 
appears in the caption of this proceeding, filers must submit two 
additional copies for each additional docket or rulemaking number. 
Filings can be sent by hand or messenger delivery, by commercial 
overnight courier, or by first-class or overnight U.S. Postal. All 
filings must be addressed to the Commission's Secretary, Office of the 
Secretary, Federal Communications Commission.
    30. All hand-delivered or messenger-delivered paper filings for the 
Commission's Secretary must be delivered to FCC Headquarters at 445 
12th Street SW., Room TW-A325, Washington, DC 20554. The filing hours 
at this location are 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. All hand deliveries must be 
held together with rubber bands or fasteners. Any envelopes must be 
disposed of before entering the building.
    31. Commercial overnight mail (other than U.S. Postal Service 
Express Mail and Priority Mail) must be sent to 9300 East Hampton 
Drive, Capitol Heights, MD 20743. U.S. Postal Service first-class, 
Express, and Priority Mail must be addressed to 445 12th Street SW., 
Washington, DC 20554.
    32. To request materials in accessible formats for people with 
disabilities (Braille, large print, electronic files, audio format), 
send an email to fcc504@fcc.gov, or call the Consumer & Governmental 
Affairs Bureau at 202-418-0530 (voice), 202-418-0432 (TTY).
    33. The full text of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is available 
for inspection and copying during normal business hours in the FCC 
Reference Information Center, Room CY-A257, 445 12th Street SW., 
Washington, DC 20554. The complete text may be purchased from the 
Commission's copy contractor, Best Copy and Printing, Inc., 445 12th 
Street SW., Room CY-B402, Washington, DC 20554. The full text may also 
be downloaded at: http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-09-30.pdf. Alternative formats are available to persons with 
disabilities by contacting Martha Contee at (202) 418-0260 or TTY (202) 
418-2555.

[[Page 69638]]

    34. Ex Parte Rules. The proceeding this NPRM initiates shall be 
treated as a ``permit-but-disclose'' proceeding in accordance with the 
Commission's ex parte rules. Persons making ex parte presentations must 
file a copy of any written presentation or a memorandum summarizing any 
oral presentation within two business days after the presentation 
(unless a different deadline applicable to the Sunshine period 
applies). Persons making oral ex parte presentations are reminded that 
memoranda summarizing the presentation must (1) list all persons 
attending or otherwise participating in the meeting at which the ex 
parte presentation was made, and (2) summarize all data presented and 
arguments made during the presentation. If the presentation consisted 
in whole or in part of the presentation of data or arguments already 
reflected in the presenter's written comments, memoranda or other 
filings in the proceeding, the presenter may provide citations to such 
data or arguments in his or her prior comments, memoranda, or other 
filings (specifying the relevant page and/or paragraph numbers where 
such data or arguments can be found) in lieu of summarizing them in the 
memorandum. Documents shown or given to Commission staff during ex 
parte meetings are deemed to be written ex parte presentations and must 
be filed consistent with 47 CFR 1.1206(b). In proceedings governed by 
47 CFR 1.49(f) or for which the Commission has made available a method 
of electronic filing, written ex parte presentations and memoranda 
summarizing oral ex parte presentations, and all attachments thereto, 
must be filed through the electronic comment filing system available 
for that proceeding, and must be filed in their native format (e.g., 
.doc, .xml, .ppt, searchable .pdf). Participants in this proceeding 
should familiarize themselves with the Commission's ex parte rules.
    35. Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis. The Regulatory 
Flexibility Act of 1980, as amended (RFA), requires that a regulatory 
flexibility analysis be prepared for notice and comment rule making 
proceedings, unless the agency certifies that ``the rule will not, if 
promulgated, have a significant economic impact on a substantial number 
of small entities.'' The RFA generally defines the term ``small 
entity'' as having the same meaning as the terms ``small business,'' 
``small organization,'' and ``small governmental jurisdiction.'' In 
addition, the term ``small business'' has the same meaning as the term 
``small business concern'' under the Small Business Act. A ``small 
business concern'' is one which: (1) Is independently owned and 
operated; (2) is not dominant in its field of operation; and (3) 
satisfies any additional criteria established by the Small Business 
Administration (SBA).
    36. As required by the RFA, 5 U.S.C. 603, the Commission has 
prepared this Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) of the 
possible significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
entities by the policies proposed in the NPRM. Written public comments 
are requested on this IRFA. Comments must be identified as responses to 
the IRFA and must be filed by the deadlines for comments on the NPRM 
set forth above. The Commission will send a copy of this entire NPRM, 
including this IRFA, to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small 
Business Administration (SBA). See 5 U.S.C. 603(a). In addition, the 
NPRM and the IRFA (or summaries thereof) will be published in the 
Federal Register. Id.
    37. Need For, and Objectives of, the Proposed Rules. This 
rulemaking proceeding is initiated to obtain further comments 
concerning certain proposals designed to revitalize the AM broadcast 
radio service. It is based in part on proposals raised in Petitions for 
Rule Making filed by various parties, including duTreil, Lundin & 
Rackley, Inc., Hatfield & Dawson Consulting Engineers, LLC, and the 
Minority Media and Telecommunications Council. Specifically, the 
Commission seeks comment on the following: (1) Whether to open a one-
time window for AM licensees and permittees to apply for FM translator 
stations to fill in parts of their signal contours; (2) whether to 
reduce the daytime community signal coverage requirements for existing 
AM stations to 50 percent of the area of the community of license or 50 
percent of the community's population; (3) whether to eliminate the 
nighttime community coverage requirement for all AM stations; (4) 
whether to eliminate the AM ``ratchet rule,'' which requires an AM 
broadcaster seeking to make changes, which would modify its AM signal, 
to demonstrate that the improvements will result in an overall 
reduction in the amount of skywave interference that it causes to 
certain other AM stations; (5) whether to allow AM broadcasters to 
commence operation using MDCL control technologies without prior 
Commission authorization, by notifying the Commission within 10 days 
after initiating such operation; and (6) whether to modify the 
Commission's AM antenna efficiency standards by reducing the minimum 
field strength values set forth in the rules. Additionally, the 
Commission seeks comment on any additional proposals designed to reduce 
burdens upon AM broadcasters, or to enhance AM service to the public.
    38. Legal Basis. The authority for this proposed rulemaking is 
contained in sections 1, 2, 4(i), 303, 307, and 309(j) of the 
Communications Act of 1934, 47 U.S.C. 151, 152, 154(i), 303, 307, and 
309(j).
    39. Description and Estimate of the Number of Small Entities to 
Which the Proposed Rules Will Apply. The RFA directs the Commission to 
provide a description of and, where feasible, an estimate of the number 
of small entities that will be affected by the proposed rules. 5 U.S.C. 
603(b). The RFA generally defines the term ``small entity'' as 
encompassing the terms ``small business,'' ``small organization,'' and 
``small governmental entity.'' 5 U.S.C. 601(6). In addition, the term 
``small business'' has the same meaning as the term ``small business 
concern'' under the Small Business Act. 5 U.S.C. 601(3). A small 
business concern is one which: (1) Is independently owned and operated; 
(2) is not dominant in its field of operation; and (3) satisfies any 
additional criteria established by the Small Business Administration 
(SBA). 15 U.S.C. 632.
    40. Radio Stations. The proposed policies could apply to radio 
broadcast licensees, and potential licensees of radio service. The SBA 
defines a radio broadcast station as a small business if such station 
has no more than $7 million in annual receipts. See 13 CFR 121.201, 
NAICS Code 515112. Business concerns included in this industry are 
those primarily engaged in broadcasting aural programs by radio to the 
public. Id. According to Commission staff review of the BIA 
Publications, Inc. Master Access Radio Analyzer Database as of August 
2, 2013, about 10,811 (97 percent) of 11,162 commercial radio station 
have revenues of $7 million or less and thus qualify as small entities 
under the SBA definition. In assessing whether a business concern 
qualifies as small under the above definition, business (control) 
affiliations must be included. 13 CFR 121.103(a)(1). Our estimate, 
therefore, likely overstates the number of small entities that might be 
affected by our action, because the revenue figure on which it is based 
does not include or aggregate revenues from affiliated companies. In 
addition, an element of the definition of ``small business'' is that 
the entity not be dominant in its field of operation. We

[[Page 69639]]

are unable at this time to define or quantify the criteria that would 
establish whether a specific radio station is dominant in its field of 
operation. Accordingly, the estimate of small businesses to which rules 
may apply do not exclude any radio station from the definition of a 
small business on this basis and therefore may be over-inclusive to 
that extent. Also as noted, an additional element of the definition of 
``small business'' is that the entity must be independently owned and 
operated. We note that it is difficult at times to assess these 
criteria in the context of media entities and our estimates of small 
businesses to which they apply may be over-inclusive to this extent.
    41. FM translator stations and low power FM stations. The proposed 
policies could affect licensees of FM translator stations, as well as 
potential licensees in this radio service. The same SBA definition that 
applies to radio broadcast licensees would apply to these stations. The 
SBA defines a radio broadcast station as a small business if such 
station has no more than $7 million in annual receipts. See 13 CFR 
121.201, NAICS Code 515112. Currently, there are approximately 6,053 
licensed FM translator and booster stations. In addition, there are 
approximately 646 applicants with pending applications filed in the 
2003 translator filing window. Given the nature of these services, we 
will presume that all of these licensees and applicants qualify as 
small entities under the SBA definition.
    42. Description of Projected Reporting, Recordkeeping and Other 
Compliance Requirements. The proposed rule and procedural changes may, 
in some cases, impose different reporting requirements on potential 
radio licensees and permittees, insofar as they would require or allow 
certain AM applicants to demonstrate their qualifications to apply for 
an FM translator station meeting the current rules for FM translator 
use by AM stations. However, the information to be filed is already 
familiar to broadcasters, and the specific information requested to 
apply for a new FM translator station involves engineering similar to 
that of full-power FM stations (and, in fact, less complex than the 
engineering for a full-power AM station), so any additional burdens 
would be minimal. Reducing the AM daytime signal coverage requirements 
should not increase burdens on AM broadcasters; they would still have 
to calculate their signal contours and the populations covered, but the 
percentage of the community that must be covered would be lower, so to 
the extent that broadcasters find it difficult to cover 80 to 100 
percent of the community of license with a 5 mV/m signal, burdens 
should be decreased. Likewise, eliminating the nighttime community 
coverage requirement will decrease burdens on AM broadcasters, who 
would no longer have to provide calculations of their nighttime 
interference-free or 5 mV/m contours. Elimination of the ``ratchet 
rule'' would substantially decrease burdens on AM broadcasters seeking 
to make changes to their facilities, by eliminating the requirement 
that they reduce skywave interference to certain other broadcasters. 
Should the Commission adopt its proposal to allow AM broadcasters to 
use MDCL technologies without prior authorization, this would reduce 
burdens on such broadcasters, who would no longer have to apply for 
waivers or experimental authorizations, but would need only to inform 
the Commission through the Media Bureau's electronic Consolidated Data 
Base System (CDBS). Finally, if the Commission were to adopt its 
proposal to reduce the minimum efficiency standards for AM 
broadcasters, this would reduce burdens on such broadcasters by 
affording them more flexibility in antenna siting and construction.
    43. Steps Taken to Minimize Significant Impact on Small Entities, 
and Significant Alternatives Considered. The RFA requires an agency to 
describe any significant alternatives that it has considered in 
reaching its proposed approach, which may include the following four 
alternatives (among others): (1) The establishment of differing 
compliance or reporting requirements or timetables that take into 
account the resources available to small entities; (2) the 
clarification, consolidation, or simplification of compliance or 
reporting requirements under the rule for small entities; (3) the use 
of performance, rather than design, standards; and (4) an exemption 
from coverage of the rule, or any part thereof, for small entities. 5 
U.S.C. 603(b). In the NPRM, the Commission seeks to assist AM 
broadcasters by providing them with an opportunity to acquire single-
purpose FM translator stations to fill in their signal contours; by 
providing relief from community signal coverage requirements (day and 
night) which may have become problematic due to geographic and 
population shifts and a dearth of land suitable for AM transmission 
systems; by eliminating the ``ratchet rule'' that imposes interference-
amelioration requirements as a quid-pro-quo for certain facility 
improvements, but which has had the effect of discouraging such 
improvements; by simplifying the process of initiating energy-saving 
MDCL technologies; and by reducing the minimum effective field strength 
values for AM stations. The Commission seeks comment as to whether its 
goal of revitalizing the AM service could be effectively accomplished 
through these means. The Commission is open to consideration of 
alternatives to the proposals under consideration, as set forth herein, 
including but not limited to alternatives that will minimize the burden 
on AM broadcasters, most of whom are small businesses. There may be 
unique circumstances these entities may face, and we will consider 
appropriate action for small broadcasters when preparing a Report and 
Order in this matter.
    44. Federal Rules Which Duplicate, Overlap, or Conflict With, the 
Commission's Proposals. None.
    45. To request materials in accessible formats for people with 
disabilities (Braille, large print, electronic files, audio format), 
send an email to fcc504@fcc.gov, or call the Consumer & Governmental 
Affairs Bureau at 202-418-0530 (voice), 202-418-0432 (TTY).

Federal Communications Commission.
Marlene H. Dortch,
Secretary.
[FR Doc. 2013-27838 Filed 11-19-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 6712-01-P