The Federal Communications Commission weighed in on a series of complaints, petitions and supplements that were filed by stations complaining that an LPFM is interfering with their stations.
In the end, the FCC dismissed some of the complaints and petitions but mandated that stations work together to determine exactly what is causing the interference.
In October 2020, New River Community Church, Manchester, Conn., filed a petition for reconsideration on a Media Bureau decision that found that its WYPH(LP), was continuing to interfere with second-adjacent channel WDRC(FM) in Hartford, Conn., owned by Red Wolf Broadcasting Corp.
In that decision the Media Bureau concluded that not only did WYPH fail to eliminate the interference it was allegedly causing, it also failed to prove beyond a doubt that its station was not the culprit in this interference situation.
Other parties began to weigh in too. Red Wolf Broadcasting filed a supplemental letter alleging that WYPH’s operations were causing interference to the over-the-air reception of its station, while Saga Communications of New England, which is licensee of WAQY(FM) in Springfield, Mass., also filed an interference complaint.
What’s key to understand is that FCC rules spell out a series of second-adjacent channel minimum distance separation requirements for LPFM stations — but only if the LPFM station demonstrates that its proposed operations will not result in interference to any authorized radio service.
As it stands, WYPH is currently licensed to operate under an approved second-adjacent channel waiver since it is short-spaced to second-adjacent channel stations WDRC and WAQY. But if the commission receives a complaint that an LPFM station is causing interference — even if they are operating with an approved second-adjacent channel wavier — the station must suspend operations until the interference is eliminated or the LPFM can prove that it is not the source of the interference.
And to be clear: any claim of interference must be from a disinterested listener who can prove their name and address and can pinpoint a location at which the interference occurs.
Over the course of 2016 and 2017, New River Community Church received a green light for both the second-channel adjacent waiver and a construction permit for WYPH.
Moving ahead to January 2020, Red Wolf filed a complaint alleging that WYPH’s operations were causing interference to the over-the-air reception of WDRC. That led the FCC to order WYPH to cease operations until it resolved the interference issues.
New River responded to say that the listener objections were not bona fide complaints because Red Wolf solicited and scripted those complaints with listeners. The licensee also suggested that on/off testing be conducted by a third-party engineer and that those test results be submitted to the Media Bureau to confirm whether WYPH is the source of interference to WDRC.
The back and forth began in earnest. New River said Red Wolf would not agree to participate in testing. New River also said that Red Wolf had tried to oust WYPH from its tower site to attempting to lease the entire tower for FM purposes.
Red Wolf replied to say that WYPH was operating with the wrong antenna, which violates FCC’s rules. Specifically, after its permit was granted, WYPH installed a two-bay half-wavelength antenna, a Shively 6812B-2. Red Wolf said that WYPH’s operations with this antenna is causing interference to both Red Wolf’s station WDRC and to Saga’s station WAQY.
New River responded by saying it was “three years too late” for Red Wolf to object and that New River’s engineering report only showed predicted interference, not actual interference.
Then Saga Communications joined in, filing an interference complaint alleging that if WYPH is allowed to resume operations, it will continue to cause interference to Saga’s WAQY. Saga asked the FCC to keep WYPH from resuming operations until the Shively antenna is replaced with a Nicom antenna.
The FCC weighed in with decisive decisions. It reaffirmed the Media Bureau decision that said that New River failed to show that its station was not the source of interference. Until New River eliminates the interference or shows that it is not causing it, the station cannot resume broadcasting, the FCC said. The commission also dismissed New River’s assertion that interference complaints were not bona fide. The bureau also reprimanded New River by failing to conduct certain on/off tests in conjunction with Red Wolf.
But New River still has the opportunity to prove that its station is not the source of interference by beginning to conduct those on/off tests. The bureau ruled that the two broadcasters — New River and Red Wolf — must jointly cooperate in a test to formally determine the source of the interference. The two have 90 days to submit those results to the bureau. The bureau also denied Red Wolf’s request to rescind WYPH’s license because the filing was not done with in a proper time frame. The commission also reviewed Saga’s complaint and found that Saga failed to submit any valid listener complaints to prove interference.