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Despite Fight, Texas FM Has License Involuntarily Modified

FCC decision may have ramifications for FM broadcasters with non-directional antennas

A Jacksboro, Texas, FM station had its license involuntarily modified by the FCC in a move that some in the industry say may raise implications for FM broadcasters with non-directional antennas.

The FCC reported that station KFWR(FM) in Jacksboro, owned by LKCM Radio Licenses L.P., was radiating as much as 274.5 kW in some directions, exceeding the 100 kW limit on effective radiated power. The FCC found that the station’s antenna radiation pattern was directional. The commission also found that the maximum-to-minimum ratio of the KFWR antenna was 19 dB, exceeding the 15 dB limit for a licensed directional antenna.

Also chiming-in through a series of letters to the FCC was station KCKL(FM) in Malakoff, Texas — which is 165 miles to the south and is owned by Lake Country Radio L.P. — stating that its station has suffered the “deleterious effects of KFWR’s unlawful ‘superpower’ operation … now into its third year.”

In its response to the FCC’s inquiries, KFWR said that in the real world, antenna installations are not truly omnidirectional and always show some degree of deviation from a circular pattern. The station also said that the commission failed to establish a “brightline” criterion for deviation from non-directionality in side-mounted FM antennas.

In its communications with the FCC, LKCM offered to reinstall the KFWR antenna on the tower as a “standard-mounted catalog non-directional antenna.” According to FCC documentation, LKCM said that this procedure “will place KFWR in the same position as any other FM station using a side-mounted non-directional antenna.”

The FCC rejected LKCM request in its order, involuntary modified its license, designated its antenna system as directional and ordered that KFWR immediately reduce its transmitter output power to 9.1 kW.

That decision has raised concerns with some in the industry who say that the case has implications for any FM broadcaster using non-directional antennas.

“All such antennas suffer from some pattern distortions,” said Cris Alexander, chief engineer for Crawford Broadcasting, in a commentary for Radio World. “Licensees of all non-directional FM stations should take heed: we have been put on notice. Virtually every one of our stations is now in violation and the FCC now has precedent for modifying our licenses to cause a power reduction and licensing our antennas as directional.”

In clarifying its ruling, the FCC said that the problem is not that circular radiation patterns do not exist in the real world, but that “LKCM not only fails to contain the KFWR signal within the maximum 100 kW radiation envelope, but has aggressively broken that envelope in violation of our rules.” The FCC also turned down LKCM’s suggestion of reinstalling the antenna, which would have “uncertain results.”