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Class C4 Coming Closer to Reality?

A Q&A with proponent Matthew Wesolowski about the new FCC NOI

The FCC has issued a notice of inquiry about a possible new FM class of stations in the United States called Class C4. We checked in with proponent Matthew Wesolowski about this. He is general manager of WYAB(FM), licensed to Jackson, Miss. 

Radio World: What exactly did the FCC do this week about Class C4?

Matthew Wesolowski: After five long years, the commission has finally acknowledged that there is a demand for a new station class, as well as ending needless overprotection of some decades-long underbuilt FM facilities. Although the FCC took public comments in this proceeding in 2014, it certainly is time to freshen up the official record prior to moving on to a more formal Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.

RW: Please summarize the NOI in a few sentences.

Wesolowski: The Notice of Inquiry seeks to establish whether or not eligible Zone II FM Class A stations are interested in taking advantage of an increase in power from 6,000 Watts to 12,000 Watts. The NOI attempts to address if smaller operators would be interested in such an upgrade, the implications of conferring a 73.215 status to underbuilt stations, and how the whole proposal may affect secondary services.

[Read: Will Class C4 Idea Move to Front Burner?]

RW: Were you surprised by this development?

Wesolowski: My company co-authored the petition with MMTC, and I do not believe that either one of our organizations had advance notice of this release. I was quite surprised, but pleasantly, of course. The supporters are very excited about this development!

RW: Do you have any insight into which way the winds are blowing in the halls of the commission on this issue? What’s your prognosis for it?

Wesolowski: I believe that some commentators have said that the NOI is an indication that the commission is trying to brush off this matter or that it is no longer a priority. I could not disagree more. In 2014, the FCC took nearly universally positive comments in this proceeding (then RM-11727), and the NOI is a necessary step in confirming that there is still interest in the FM Class C4 issue. Since the NOI’s release, I have talked to several dozen FM Class A licensees who are beyond ecstatic about the prospects of getting a power boost. I find it hard to believe that the commission would turn away so many broadcasters at this stage, particularly as the chairman has publicly endorsed the idea.

RW: What do you feel is the main objection to the whole concept that’s been raised to date; and how do you respond to it?

Wesolowski: FM translator licensees are concerned that FM Class A stations upgrading to FM Class C4 will somehow knock hundreds of secondary signals off the air. Their concern is understandable, but the data and studies of likely stations apt to take advantage of the new class do not support that conclusion. My company conducted a study after the fourth and final AM Revitalization filing window this year, taking into account thousands of new and relocated FM cross-service translators, and concluded that the impact of the FM Class C4 stations to these licenses would be negligible.

RW: What else should we know?

Wesolowski: I would encourage all Zone II FM Class A station licensees to file supporting comments in the MB 18-184 proceeding as soon as possible. It is vital that the commission hears from smaller operators who would benefit from this proceeding. If anyone needs help in doing so, I would encourage them to call or send me an email.

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