Last week, we wrote about the FCC fining stations for a number of violations found at the studios of some broadcast stations.  In these same cases, the FCC also found a number of technical violations at the tower sites of some of the same stations.  Issues for which fines were issued included the failure to have an locked fence around an AM station’s tower, the failure of stations to be operating at the power for which they were authorized, and the failure to have a station’s Studio Transmitter Link operating on its licensed frequency.

An issue found in two case was the failure to operate at the power specified on the station’s license.  In one case, an AM station simply seemed to not be switching to its nighttime power – in other words, at sunset, it was not reducing power from the power authorized for its daytime operations.  The second case was one where another AM station was not switching to its nighttime antenna pattern after dark.  In that case, there were apparently issues with the nighttime antenna but, rather than request special temporary authority from the FCC to operate with reduced power until the problem was fixed, the FCC notes that the station apparently just kept operating with its daytime power.  An STA is not difficult to obtain when there is a technical issue (as the FCC does not want stations going dark if it can be avoided), and some effort is made to specify a power that avoids interference to other stations.  So, if faced with technical problems, request authority for operations that are different from those authorized by the station’s license until those problems can be fixed, or risk a fine from the Commission.

Continue Reading FCC Inspections – Transmission Site Fines for Overpower Operation, Unlocked Tower Fences, and Improper STL Operations

The FCC late today released its long-awaited Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposing to allow FM translators to rebroadcast the signal of AM stations – and potentially to originate programming during those nighttime hours when a daytime-only AM station is not permitted to operate.  The proposal is to permit AM stations to operate FM translators in an area that is the lesser of a circle 25 miles from their transmitter site or within their 2 mv/m daytime service contour.  In proposing the changes in its rules, the Commission raised a number of questions on which it seeks public comment.   These include the following:

  • Is allowing the rebroadcast of AM stations on FM translators in the public interest?  What would its impact be on other stations including AM and FM stations, as well as LPFM stations?
  • How many translators should each AM station be permitted?
  • Should daytime-only AM stations be allowed to originate programming on an FM translator during hours when they have no programming to rebroadcast?
  • Should the FCC permit AM stations to begin operating translators all at once – or should the use of these translators be phased in – perhaps permitting daytimers or stations with minimal nighttime power to operate translators first for some transitional period.
  • Should there be a restriction on an AM station’s use of an FM translator if the AM is co-owned with an FM station in the same market?
  • Can an AM station "broker" time on a translator to provide the type of service proposed in this proceeding?

In addition to these operational issues, the FCC poses a few technical issues about these operations.  These include:

  • Should any extension beyond the 2 mv/m contour be permitted?  If so, how much and in what circumstances?
  • How should the 2 mv/m contour be calculated – using standard FCC predictions, or allowing the measurement of the actual reach of that signal?
  • Should the 25 mile zone be extended to 35 miles in Zone II (essentially the less populated areas of the country)?

Comments on the Notice will be due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register, with replies due 30 days later.

Continue Reading FCC Finally Releases Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to Allow FM Translators to Rebroadcast AM Stations