A low-power FM station in Garland, Texas, is being accused of unlawful operation and of interfering with the signal of nearby full-power commercial radio station, leading to censure from one the radio industry’s leading low-power FM advocacy groups.
KYEB(LP), which is licensed to Iglesia Alfa Y Omega, is being accused of unlawful operation and interfering with the signal of KESS(FM) in Benbrook, Texas. According to a complaint filed with the Federal Communications Commission on March 4 by KCYT-FM License Corp. — a subsidiary of Univision Communications — KYEB has “substantially interfered” with the signal of KESS since at least Jan. 14. “KYEB-LP has been observed to interfere with KESS — to the extent of completely masking the KESS signal — along a roughly 35-mile corridor through the center of the metropolitan area,” Univision said in its complaint.
In addition, according to the complaint, no records have been located that indicate that KYEB received program test authority to begin broadcasting at this early date; KYEB was formally granted a license to cover on Feb. 1 of this year. (Two months earlier, the station saw its first application to modify a construction permit dismissed by the Media Bureau after an engineering study revealed that the proposed transmitter for KYEB failed to meet the minimum spacing requirement away from a facility in Fort Worth, Texas.)
Conducting its own research, KESS personnel determined that the source of the interfering signal on 107.1 MHz was originating from a tower that was specified in KYEB’s construction permit to be for KYEB(LP). KESS personnel calculated that KYEB is operating at an actual ERP of 41.5 watts, what KESS said is more than three times greater than its authorized level.
KESS personnel also complained that KYEB is broadcasting advertisements for businesses located in several local Texas communities. “These advertisements appear to violate the restrictions on enhanced underwriting applicable to LPFM stations under the Communications Act and the commission’s rules,” the filing said. The complaint also raised a question as to who is ultimately responsible for the operation of KYEB, as the name on the initial application and the companion address were found to be associated with a different individual.
The filing also raised concern that the dismissed December construction permit modification application listed an individual named Antonio Cesar Guel as a consultant, who Univision says has been under investigation by the commission for a variety of compliance failures. “[Guel’s] involvement in the KYEB-LP filing thus raises additional real party in interest concerns with respect to the station,” the filing said.
Univision is asking the FCC to direct KYEB to cease operation unless it remains within its licensed parameters, and to initiate an investigation of the other matters raised in its complaint.
One of the industry’s leading low-power FM advocacy groups supports Univision’s complaint against KYEB(LP) and expressed concern about the alleged actions. “As a secondary service, LPFM stations are merely ‘guests’ on the dial and as guests, we should behave as such,” Michelle Bradley, founder of REC Networks, told Radio World when reached for comment.
“When you have an LPFM station that was given their station license for free from the FCC and you represent a commercial FM station that pays a significant annual regulatory fee and borne the expenses for regulatory requirements like a staffed main studio — and that LPFM station is running commercials like the commercial station is — the commercial station has every right to be upset, but sometimes it can paint the picture that all LPFM stations behave like the one running the commercials in that full-power's market.”
“I don’t support those who abuse this limited resource, especially when there are so many other organizations standing by the wayside wanting to get themselves on the air,” she said.
In 2013, REC Networks filed an informal objection against 246 Guel-assisted applications over localism concerns. Since then, a number of these applications have been dismissed. Seventy-six remain pending, according to Bradley.
According to REC, the FCC appears to be actively investigating these applications to determine if truthful information about headquarters and board members’ residences were given on the original application.
“I would like to see the FCC continue … contacting the churches mentioned in the original applications to make a showing that the church address identified in those original applications had never been the headquarters of these alleged organizations that were just established prior to the window,” she said.
“While we can’t completely stop speculation in the service, I would like to see additional actions taken to assure that localism is achieved,” she said, including collecting FCC registration numbers from all board members and potentially requiring LPFM stations to file periodic ownership reports to illustrate that a station is still being locally-owned and operated. “It is our hope that we will see FCC decisions on the remainder of the Guel applications by the end of the summer and decisions on the remaining pending LPFM applications by the end of the year,” Bradley said.
The FCC has not yet responded to Univision’s complaint.
Radio World has contacted KYEB for comment but has not yet received a response.