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Broadcaster Pitches an Idea: A New Class for FM

SSR and CEO Matt Wesolowski drop some C4

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the proposed maximum antenna height of C4 stations as 100 feet. The proposal calls for 100 meters (328 feet).

Is there room for a Class C4 of FM stations on the U.S. radio dial? Would such a new class help minority-owned stations in particular? What impact might a Class C4 have on low-power FM stations, which are expected to proliferate beyond current numbers?

Broadcast attorney Harry Cole points out these issues in a blog post about a proposal from SSR Communications Inc.

RW readers will recall that SSR and its CEO Matt Wesolowski have lobbied the FCC before, seeking to help short-spaced commercial FMs to upgrade facilities. SSR owns WYAB(FM), a Class A in Mississippi.

Now SSR has suggested that the FCC set up a new Class C4 in Zone II of the United States (which means most of the country minus notable areas in the northeast/central region and California). These stations would have ERP up to 12 kW and antenna height up to 100 meters.

As Cole puts it, SSR wants to “shoe-horn” this new class in between Classes A and C3, where there is more of a power gap than between other FM classes. Stations seeking to reclassify would be able to trigger orders to “show cause” directed to some “underfacilitied” stations on the same or adjacent channels, much as is the case now for the FCC’s Class C0 upgrade process.

Cole notes that SSR emphasizes not only the spectrum efficiency angle of this idea but also a benefit to minority-owned stations, possibly dozens if not hundreds of current Class As. Cole adds his opinion that historically, the commission “has been reluctant to modify its technical rules based on non-permanent factors such as the racial identity of the licensees of particular stations.” And he notes that the possible impact on LPFMs is unclear.

Read it here:
Explosive Proposal: C4 for FMs? (Harry Cole Blog)

The full proposal (PDF)

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