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FCC Gives Green Light to Durham Translator

Radio One had objected, but the FCC says its petition didn’t meet requirements

A new FM translator for an AM station may be on the horizon in Durham, N.C., despite concerns from another local station about interference. It’s a case that will be of interest to those paying attention to how the commission plans to handle translator interference claims under its new rules.

The petition to deny was stymied, the FCC said, by a series of incomplete claims and half-finished maps that are needed to pinpoint areas of interference.

In the fall of 2019, Radio One Licenses filed against a translator application from WDNC(AM) LLC, claiming the station would be violating FCC rules because its proposed 1 mV/m contour would overlap an area covered by Radio One’s WFXK(FM), based in Bunn, N.C.

[Read: Massachusetts FM Translator Nixed After Interference Concerns]

In the halls of the FCC, however, steps were being taken to revise the commission’s translator interference rules; and as a result, the Media Bureau would process Radio One’s petition under those new rules.

Among other things, the new rules require the petitioner to show that granting the application would be against public interest. The rules also require the petitioner to submit at least 15 valid listener complaints, create a map that plots the specific location of the alleged interference, draft a statement that the complaining station is operating within its own licensed parameters, provide proof that the station has attempted private resolution of the problem, and showcase data that demonstrates that the undesired-to-desired signal strength — at each and every listener location — exceeds certain limits.

Radio One failed to meet several of those requirements, the Media Bureau stated in its response. It failed to submit appropriate description of the alleged interference locations. Only three of the listener complaints contained a clear, concise and accurate description of the location where interference would occur.

Descriptions cannot be described as “Downtown Durham” or “near the UNC campus,” the Media Bureau said. The petitioner must instead provide a pinpoint location in specific detail — such as a cross-street or mile maker — so that the location can be properly mapped. Although Radio One did submit maps with hand- and computer-drawn marks, the mas are not signed and cannot be proven to belong to the listeners themselves. Those missing requirements include a shortfall on the minimum number of complaints, a map with the location of each alleged interference and proof that the new translator’s station signal strength would exceed proper limits.

The FCC also noted that many of the interference areas provided by Radio One are outside the 60 dBu contour of WFXK but are within the contour of the station’s sister station WFXC. Since both stations are branded as “FOXY” and both broadcast the same program, the Media Bureau wondered if there is some consumer confusion going on.

“Therefore, we direct Radio One, if it chooses to pursue any further interference claims regarding these stations, to ensure that its standardized listener complaint makes a clear distinction between these two stations,” wrote Albert Shuldiner, chief of the Audio Division within the Media Bureau, in a statement.

As a result, the Media Bureau denied the Radio One petition and moved to grant the new cross-service FM translator application to WDNC. Radio One had 30 days to revise its petition if it wishes to.