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Calif. LPFM Fails in Appeal of Another Nearby

One low-power broadcaster says another is causing interference, but FCC says they’re spaced properly

The FCC staff has ruled on a dispute between two southern California low-power FM stations that operate on the same frequency about 14 miles apart.

The decision by the chief of the Media Bureau’s Audio Division is in favor of KHSH(LP) in Redlands, Calif., a Calvary Chapel of Redlands station.

Older station KJVA(LP) in nearby San Bernardino — also on 94.3 MHz, also airing religious programming, and licensed to Vida Abundante — had asked the commission to reconsider the license for newcomer KHSH.

Calvary Chapel received a construction permit for a new LPFM in late 2014 and subsequently was granted approval to lower its tower height. In June of this year the FCC granted Calvary Chapel its license accordingly.

A few weeks later, Abundante asked the FCC to reconsider, arguing that the station is causing interference to its KJVA signal.

Calvary argued back that Abundante’s petition should be rejected because KHSH is fully spaced in compliance with the rules and because the petition was procedurally deficient on a number of grounds (for instance, that it was not accompanied by an affidavit of a qualified radio engineer).

The commission staff agreed that the petition was procedurally defective. “Even were we to consider the merits of Abundante’s petition, we would deny it,” Audio Division Chief Peter Doyle continued. He said KHSH met and still meets the spacing requirements set out in the commission’s rules. A footnote explains that those rules require a minimum distance of 24 kilometers for co-channels stations; KHSH is considered to be fully spaced at 23.7 kilometers, rounded up. (That’s about 14 miles.)

Although Abundante argued that the grant of the new LPFM license was contrary to public interest because of the interference to KJVA’s listenership, Doyle wrote, “we note that when the commission created LPFM services, it specifically chose to use spacing requirements to establish interference protections in order to ‘preserve the integrity and technical excellence of existing FM radio service.’” While the stations operate on the same channel, he said, they are fully spaced; and Abundante did not allege that KHSH is operating with unauthorized facilities, so there is no actionable claim of interference.