AlmaVision Radio in Miami is a “Franken FM” station, and hopes to remain one.
The nickname Franken FM refers to the two dozen or so licensed low-power TV stations on analog Channel 6 in the United States that target radio listeners with audio on 87.7 MHz, just below the standard FM dial. These unique operations will disappear once analog service is eliminated; the digital audio portion of TV6 stations will no longer be received by standard FM receivers, according to the FCC’s public notice.
(A decade or more ago, the term Franken FM — evocative of an unnatural stitching together — appeared on a technical listserv and was picked up by Radio World in our coverage. RW’s use of the term goes back at least to 2009. Some in the LPTV community consider the term pejorative. The FCC calls them “Analog Radio Services operated by Digital LPTV Stations as Ancillary or Supplementary Services.)
The commission has set a deadline of July 13, 2021, for all LPTVs to terminate their analog services. But it is also taking comments from around the industry about the Channel 6 audio service issue.
AlmaVision Hispanic Network, licensee of WEYS(LP), VHF TV 6, in Miami, Fla., operates AlmaVision Radio on 87.7 MHz. It told the FCC in filed comments that WEYS provides ethnic programming using the station’s 87.7 MHz signal to reach a potential 2.2 million Spanish-language audience within the station’s coverage area.
“AlmaVision Hispanic Network supports the grandfathering of analog 87.7 FM LPTV stations such as WEYS(LP) so that they may continue to provide their valuable and unique local programming. It is unquestionably in the public interest that the FCC permit these ongoing successful programming ventures to continue to serve their communities with their local programming,” according to the broadcaster.
The commission in December asked stakeholders and interested parties for fresh feedback on whether LPTV stations should be allowed to continue to operate this FM-type service. Specifically, it asked if digital LPTV stations should be allowed to operate analog radio services as ancillary or supplementary services.
The FCC acknowledges that some Channel 6 LPTV stations have operated with “very limited visual programming and an audio signal programmed as if it were a radio station.”
In addition to providing Spanish-language programming and music on 87.7 FM, the Miami broadcaster said in its comments it provides emergency alerts in Spanish and has considerable local support from sponsors of content and local events, as well as advertisers.
“The station is a vital religious, educational and civic component of the Spanish-speaking community in the Miami metro area,” according to AlmaVision Hispanic Network.
Juan Bruno Caamano, president of AlmaVision Hispanic Network, said AVHN supports expanding into a digital TV6 service with an analog carve out for its 87.7 FM signal. This would allow the broadcaster to greatly expand into multiple video streams in support of the Spanish-language community in the Miami market, and to keep its successful and well supported radio service.
“AVHN supports technical testing of a combination digital LPTV station and an 87.7 FM signal, to ensure that all current and potential future operations do not cause interference to other radio, LPFM and TV operations,” Caamano commented.
The commission first asked the question in 2014 of whether the Franken FM audio services should be allowed to continue past the analog LPTV deadline and what that audio service would look like. It sought to update the record in December. Reply comments in MB Docket No. 03-185 are due on or before Feb. 6.