The holiday season is nearly behind us and many are looking forward to putting 2020 in the rearview mirror with a hopeful eye on 2021.  The new year will bring big changes to the Washington broadcast regulation scene, with the inauguration of a new President and installation of a new FCC chair who will make an imprint on the agency with his or her own priorities.  And routine regulatory dates and deadlines will continue to fill up a broadcaster’s calendar.  So let’s look at what to expect in the world of Washington regulation in the coming month.

On the routine regulatory front, on or before January 10, all full-power broadcast stations, commercial and noncommercial, must upload to their online public inspection files their Quarterly Issues Programs lists, listing the most important issues facing their communities in the last quarter of 2020 and the programs that they broadcast in October, November and December that addressed those issues.  As we have written before, these lists are the only documents required by the FCC to demonstrate how stations served the needs and interests of their broadcast service area, and they are particularly important as the FCC continues its license renewal process for radio and TV stations.  Make sure that you upload these lists to your public file by the January 10 deadline.  You can find a short video on complying with the Quarterly Issues/Programs List requirements here.
Continue Reading January Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – A New FCC Administration, Quarterly Issues Programs Lists, KidVid, Comment Deadlines and a Supreme Court Oral Argument on Ownership Issues

A recent proposal to increase the power levels at which HD Radio stations operate – to improve coverage and, perhaps more importantly, building penetration so that people can receive digital channels inside buildings – has been the subject of a cautionary study released by National Public Radio.  That study was summarized in a story in the NPR magazine Current (an executive summary can be found here, and the entire 280 page study is here).  The study agrees that an increase in power suggested by the recent proposal would increase HD Radio coverage and significantly increase building penetration, but it would do so only at the cost of causing interference to existing analog stations – in some cases significant interference.  Such interference would be especially troublesome in receivers in cars, where radio broadcasters have long concentrated some of their most important programming to capture people in the place where competing entertainment options are most limited.   

The NPR study does suggest that there could be ways to limit the interference using directional antennas or lessening power but using digital boosters that could be tuned slightly off-center on their frequencies to protect adjacent channel stations.  HD radio operates on the sides of a station’s analog channel (thus its original name – "IBOC" for In-Band On-Channel), thus potentially causing interference to adjacent channel stations.  By suppressing the signal on the side of the signal nearest to the adjacent channel station and sending the digital bits out of the other side of the channel, some of this interference could be minimized.  Yet systems capable of such protections have not yet been fully developed.


Continue Reading NPR Study Suggests Concerns With Increase in HD Radio Power