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FCC Throws Lifeline to an FM6 Station

Temporary extension suggests commission’s mind isn’t made up yet on Franken FMs

Franken FM stations may have some hope after all. The Federal Communications Commission has opened that door, at least a crack.

The commission has granted special temporary authority to one digital LPTV station that is also still operating an ancillary audio signal at 88.7 FM. The STA will allow it to continue its “FM6” operations for at least the next six months rather than shut down at the July 13 deadline.

Radio World has learned that the commission will consider similar STA requests until it decides how it will handle the FM6 issue.

Similar requests “will be considered”

KBKF(LD) in San Jose, Calif., which is licensed to Venture Technologies Group, converted to ATSC 3.0 digital operations earlier this year. It then requested special temporary authority from the FCC to continue its analog FM6 operations beyond the July 13 deadline for LPTV analog stations to complete their digital facilities.

KBKF, Air1KBFK airs contemporary Christian music from the Air1 Radio Network from the Educational Media Foundation. EMF in March urged the FCC to “act expeditiously” on the FM6 proceeding.

FM6 proponents say the ATSC 3.0 standard allows a station’s DTV signal to occupy as little as 5.509 MHz, which leaves room for an analog audio carrier that does not degrade the station’s DTV signal. FM6 operations may only be conducted on 87.75 MHz.

[Read our prior story “Time Running Out for FM6 Stations?”]

An FCC spokesperson told Radio World: “This STA will allow for such stations to continue operating, with conditions, until the commission determines how to act on the broader rulemaking. The STA operations will help inform such future action.”

This development doesn’t change the fact that analog LPTV stations must terminate analog television operations by July 13. “However, if other analog Channel 6 LPTV stations convert to digital 3.0 by the July 13 deadline and request similar STA relief, those requests will be considered,” according to a FCC Media Bureau official.

Paul Koplin, president of Venture Technologies Group, told Radio World in an email: “This provides Channel 6 the path forward to survive in a digital world. The technology works without interfering with other stations or its own signal.”

Ari Meltzer, a spokesman for the Preserve Community Programming Coalition (PCPC), a FM6 advocacy group, said: “This will prevent any disruption for listeners on July 13 and help establish a record of real-world operations for the open rulemaking proceeding.”

Operators of “Franken FM” stations have lobbied for several years to be able to maintain an analog output on 87.7 FM even after converting to digital TV6 service. Analog LPTV’s were allowed to request an extension to complete their digital TV facilities beyond July 13.

Nothing Ventured …

In its letter to Venture Technologies Group acknowledging the special temporary authority, the FCC emphasizes that the designation is temporary and there are conditions the licensee needs to meet, including making immediate modifications if any interference is reported.

The FCC noted in its STA letter that Venture had provided notice to all potentially affected Channel 5, Channel 6 and 88.1 FM stations in San Jose, San Francisco, Oakland and adjoining Designated Market Areas, telling them that it was beginning digital service with ATSC 3.0 video and an ancillary audio signal.

The letter was dated June 10 and signed by Barbara Kreisman, chief of the video division of the Media Bureau.

Venture Technologies Group also committed to making efficient use of the ATSC 3.0 video portion of the station’s signal. “Venture represents that KBKF(LD) will provide at least one stream of synchronized video and audio programming on the ATSC 3.0 portion of the spectrum on a full time (24×7) basis,” according to the FCC correspondence.

Venture must also submit several written reports to the FCC during the six-month period detailing any reports of interference to other licensed users and any interference between KBKF(LD)’s video and audio services that in any way limits the coverage of its video, according to the FCC.