It took until the very end of the comment period but a full-power FM broadcaster in New Jersey has voiced opposition to a FCC petition filed by a fill-in FM translator owner who accused the New Jersey station of taking advantage of outdated FCC rules to keep it off the air.
Clear Communications Inc., licensee for WVLT(FM) in Vineland, N.J., took aim at a petition filed by Aztec Capital Partners (RM-11786) seeking to modify Part 74 of the commission’s rules to reduce the protections accorded full service FM stations from interference caused by fill-in FM translators.
Aztec Capital seeks to rebroadcast its Spanish language programming from WHAT(AM) on a fill-in translator at 92.1 MHz (W221DS) in Philadelphia. However, an earlier complaint lodged by Clear Communications alleged potential interference with their full-power Class A FM, WVLT, on the same frequency in southern New Jersey, which is approximately 50 miles away.
The Aztec Capital petition requested the FCC to consider a rulemaking to modify Sections 74.1203 and 74.1204 of the current FM translator rules so that interference complaints by distant full-power radio stations against a fill-in translator from outside a local radio market cannot result in the translator being removed from the air.
FM translators are considered secondary services and are typically forced to leave the air until interference complaints with full-time stations can be resolved.
Clear Communications argues the petition is flawed by use of “misleading arguments and misinformation” in support of changing the FCC’s rules that would diminish the rights of full power FM stations. “The petition ignores the historical nature of FM radio listenership, namely, that listeners want to listen to the favorite program content wherever they are to the fullest extent.
“Broadcasters such as Clear Communications have long expected their signals to be received beyond their primary protected contours. Aztec, in effect, is asking the FCC to take away the established listening area of every full service FM station, translator and booster if interference from a new proposed translator would occur outside the primary service contour,” Clear Communications states in its filing this week.
Aztec said in its petition it believes local radio service provided by an FM translator should not be removed from the air by the FCC due to a complaint from a distant primary FM unless there is a “significant public interest reason to do so, and the public would be significantly served by such a loss of service.”
Clear Communications continues in it petition, “Aztec’s proposed rule changes would strip away the ability of stations to protect their existing listenership by depriving them of the right to oppose or even comment on the resulting modification of a station’s license. In effect, the proposed rule changes make fill-in translator applicants primary and all other stations secondary.”
Further, in a supplement to Clear Communications’ original petition from February of 2016 requesting reconsideration of the grant to modify the facilities of Aztec Capital’s W221DS, an engineering statement demonstrates “the easily listenable and clear WVLT signal throughout the translator station’s service area (60 dBu contour).”
Clarence Beverage, president of Communications Technologies and WVLT’s consulting engineer, conducted a series of video and audio recordings that reportedly show reception of WVLT’s off-air signal within the 60 dBu contour of W221DS.
“[Clear Communications] is feeling a sense of great jeopardy as the commencement of operation of W221DS will cause WVLT to lose a massive portion of its audience,” the broadcaster said in its supplemental filing.