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Broadcasters: Now Is the Time to Stand Up & Protect the FM Band

FCC published a summary of proposed rules for resolving complaints of interference to existing full-power stations or other FM services from new/relocated FM translators

WASHINGTON — One June 5, the Federal Communications Commission issued a Notice of Inquiry in order to gather more information about a proposal to establish the Class C4 for FM stations. This new class of FM station would allow some Class A stations, currently limited to power levels of 6 kW ERP at an antenna heights of no more than 100 meters, to increase their facilities to up to 12 kW. This subject was covered in detail here.

The FCC also includes in its NOI a proposal to amend Section 73.215 of the FCC rules, which allows FM stations to be located at less than the normally required distances to stations to which they could potentially cause interference, if they use directional antennas or otherwise protect the other station’s maximum permitted facilities. 

Specifically, the proposal on which the FCC seeks comments is one that would allow short-spacings under Section 73.215 if the upgrading station protects the other station’s actual contours, not their maximum permitted contour. 

“In other words, stations that are not operating at the full permissible height or power for their class of FM station could lose protections they currently enjoy, and either be forced to upgrade themselves to block the short-spaced application or be prohibited from doing so in the future,” according to David Oxenford, in a recent entry for Broadcast Law Blog. He also brings up two other points:

  • On the C4 proposal, the FCC asks how the implementation of this proposal would impact other full-service stations and the many new FM translators that have been authorized in the last few years.
  • In addition, the FCC asks whether any increased coverage by the stations that could take advantage of the C4 proposal would outweigh the general increase in the “noise floor” in the FM band. Questions about the proposal’s impact on LPFM channel availability are also raised in the NOI.

Comments on these proposals will be due 30 days after the NOI is summarized in the Federal Register. Reply comments will be due 60 days after that publication.

On June 6, the FCC published in the Federal Register a summary of its proposed rules for resolving complaints of interference to existing full-power stations or other existing FM services from new or relocated FM translators. The publication in the Federal Register starts the 30 day comment period — so comments are due by July 6 with reply comments due by Aug. 6. 

“There are certain to be many broadcasters expressing their views on the FCC’s proposals in this proceeding. Expect final FCC action late this year or sometime in 2019,” also according to Oxenford, here.