As of July 2009, the basic Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations on translators are:
- FM translators may be used for cross-band translation. This removes the restriction that prevented FM translators from retransmitting AM signals.
- No translator or booster may transmit anything other than the live simulcast of its licensed parent station, except for emergency warnings (such as EAS), and 30 seconds per hour of fundraising.
- The parent station must identify all of its translators and boosters between 7 and 9 am, between 12:55 and 1:05 pm, and between 4 and 6 pm each broadcast day; or each must be equipped with its own automated device (audio or FSK) for hourly identification.
- Maximum power is 250 watts ERP for a translator, and 20% of the maximum allowable ERP for the primary station's class for a booster. There is no limit on height for fill-in translators (those that exist within the primary service contour of the primary station).
- A translator or booster must go off the air if the parent station's signal is lost. (This helps prevent unauthorized retransmission of other stations).
There is one loophole by which programming may differ between a main station and an FM translator: an HD Radio signal may contain digital subchannels with different programming from the main analogue channel, and a translator may operate in such a way as to broadcast programming taken from the originating station's HD2 subchannel as the translator's main analogue signal. W237DE (95.3 Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) broadcasts the programming format formerly carried by WTCY AM 1400, but it actually gets this signal from a WNNK (104.1 FM) HD2 digital subchannel for analogue rebroadcast at the WNNK tower site on 95.3's main signal. As such, it technically is still legally an FM repeater of an FM station, even though each signal would be heard as delivering unique content by users of standard analogue FM radio receivers.
Commercial stations may own their translators or boosters when that translator or booster exists within the primary service contour of the parent station (they can only fill in where terrain blocks the signal). In fact, boosters may only be owned by the primary station. Translators outside of a primary station's service contour cannot be owned by the primary station, nor can they receive any financial support from the primary station. Most translators operate by picking-up the signal of the main station off the air with a directional antenna and sensitive receiver, and directly retransmitting the signal. They also may not transmit in the FM "reserved band" from 88 to 92 MHz, where only noncommercial stations are allowed. Noncommercial stations may broadcast in the commercial band, however. Unlike commercial stations, they can also relay programming to translators via satellite, so long as those translators are in the reserved band. Translators in the commercial band may only be fed by a direct off-the-air signal from another FM station or translator. Non-fill-in commercial band translators may not be fed by satellite, as spelled out in FCC rule 74.1231(b). All stations may use any means to feed boosters.
All U.S. translator and booster stations are low-power and have a class D license, making them secondary to other stations (including the parent). They must accept any interference from full-power (100-watt or more on FM) stations, while not causing any of their own. Boosters must not interfere with the parent station within the community of license. Licenses are automatically renewed with that of the parent station and do not require separate applications, though each may still be challenged with a petition to deny.
FM booster stations are given the full callsign (always including an -FM suffix, even if there is none assigned) of the parent station, plus a serial number, such as WXYZ-FM1, WXYZ-FM2, etc.
FM translator stations may use sequential numbered callsigns, consisting of K or W, followed by a three-digit number (201 through 300 corresponding to frequencies 88.1 MHz – 107.9 MHz) followed by a pair of sequentially assigned letters. The format is similar to that used by numbered TV translators, where the number refers to the permanent channel assignment.
As of October 2008 the largest terrestrial radio translator system in the US belongs to KUER-FM, the non-commercial radio outlet of the University of Utah, with 33 translator stations ranging from Idaho to New Mexico and Arizona.
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Famous quotes containing the word radio:
“Now they can do the radio in so many languages that nobody any longer dreams of a single language, and there should not any longer be dreams of conquest because the globe is all one, anybody can hear everything and everybody can hear the same thing, so what is the use of conquering.”
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