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REC Networks Sees NAB “Conspiracy Campaign”

LPFM advocate pushes back on 250-watt service

REC Networks founder Michi Bradley is criticizing the National Association of Broadcasters for running what she describes as a conspiracy campaign against her petition to increase the maximum power for low-power FMs to 250 watts.

NAB has been a vocal opponent of REC’s “Simple 250” proposal, telling the FCC it has concerns about potential interference to existing FM signals, in particular to translators. The association also has questioned the capabilities of some LPFM stations to address interference complaints adequately.

The petition would amend Parts 73 and 74 of the rules to create an LP250 class of service with an effective service contour of about 4-1/2 miles, in addition to the current LP100 service. The NAB has been vigorous in opposition, and last week we told you about its latest reply comments.

REC Networks too has filed replies, alleging that NAB relies on several “conspiracy theories.”

One, Bradley says, is the “crowded spectrum” argument: “NAB continues to [revel] in this ongoing conspiracy theory that claims that LP250 would result in ‘further congestion’ of the already crowded FM band, yet provides absolutely no technical data to support their claim.”

REC continues: “[C]ontour overlap between commercial stations already exists because of the use of distance separation instead of contours in order to space stations apart. The NAB does not seem to have any problem with that kind of spectrum crowding and interference as it would likely involve its own membership. If anything, it is REC and not the NAB that has been the most transparent in disclosing isolated incidents of interference with the upgrade to LP250 and as we will explain, that upgrades to LP250 follow the same accepted standards that currently allow full-service commercial FM stations to be able to be spaced, without regard to contour overlap.”

REC Networks proposes that an upgrade from LP100 to LP250 be allowed as a simple minor change application.

It acknowledges the potential for an LPFM to create or increase overlap with an authorized facility due to specific geographic situations, and says it understands comments from ABC-Disney expressing concern over LP250 and its potential impact on WPVI(TV), a legacy Channel 6 station in Philadelphia.

However, REC says the possibility of any new LP100 stations near Philadelphia is extremely small. “ABC-Disney should not need to be concerned about the outcome of this proceeding as it will have no impact on WPVI operations.”

NAB also portrays LPFM stakeholders as “having no regard for the rules,” Bradley wrote, but this generalizes to the entire service from a small number of situations, she argues.

Further, she argues that “NAB tries to play the COVID sympathy card.” The association, she wrote, “claims that radio stations had to quickly reconfigure their systems to comply with social distancing guidelines and remote operations, newsgathering and reporting. It would be completely pathetic to assume that these reactions and precautions to protect and inform the local community were exclusive to full-service broadcast stations.”

And NAB says the economic downturn caused by the pandemic has severely impacted the radio industry and that advertising dollars which sustain radio were among the first business cuts when businesses contract during downturns, according to REC.

“They fail to recognize that LPFM stations were in a similar situation during the pandemic,” REC told the FCC.

There are 2,159 licensed LPFM 100 stations in the United States, according to the latest data from the FCC. The approximate service range of a 100 watt LPFM station is 3.5 miles radius.