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FM Translator Wins Battle but …

Operations then suspended to address interference complaints

It seems like a game of two-steps-forward/two-steps-back for an FM translator station in Georgia, which prevailed in having its license restored to its original ERP but then was ordered to suspend operations over issues of interference.

Earlier this year, Nelson Rodriguez, who is licensee of WJES(FM) in Maysville, Ga., filed an interference complaint alleging that Woodstock-based translator W265AV, owned by Immanuel Broadcasting Network, was causing interference to Rodriguez’s station.

In March Rodriquez took the formal step of filing for an emergency petition for relief, alleging that the president of Immanuel, Neil Hopper, indicated that he was unwilling to resolve the matter by reducing power or suspending operations of the station. 

Hopper responded by questioning whether the interference was in fact caused by the translator, and also argued that the complaints were not from bona fidelisteners but rather from relatives and friends of Rodriguez.

Nonetheless, Immanuel took steps to address the situation by reducing the translator’s power by 20%. Rodriguez still cried foul, and filed a petition again alleging that the station’s power reduction had had “no discernable beneficial effect on the WJES signal.” In all, Rodriguez submitted more than 50 listener statements in support of this claim.

In April, the Media Bureau stepped in and issued a letter directing Immanuel to resolve all interference, and Immanuel responded by requesting special temporary authority to operate at 50% power down to 52 watts. This request was granted. 

That wasn’t enough for Rodriguez, who urged immediate and outright suspension of the station’s operations. He also submitted another letter objecting to an extension of time that the bureau had given Immanuel to resolve the interference complaints.

By mid-June, Immanuel proposed a new plan of action, which involved a temporary power reduction, installation of a directional antenna, and/or relocation of WJES.

No go, said Rodriguez, who rejected the proposal.

That’s when the bureau took its second step: Issuing a license modification letter that reissued the translator license to a total of 10 Watts ERP.

Here, Immanuel balked and filed a license modification petition, and said that the FCC needed to follow its own rule book in cases such as these. Immanuel said it complied with the Audio Division’s order to reduce power to 10 watts ERP, but such an interim measure cannot result in the permanent modification of the W265AV license until one specific section — which is spelled out in Section 316(a) of the commission’s rules — is formally complied with.

That one section states that while a station license may be modified for a limited time, no such modification order shall become final until the holder of the license is notified in writing and given reasonable opportunity to protest.

Because this procedure was not followed, Immanuel contends, the bureau must rescind its order to modify the station license.

The FCC agreed. It’s a stickler for the rules, particularly its own. It moved to restore the license for the original authorized ERP of 105 watts because of inaccurate way that the license modification letter was processed.

Rodriquez and Immanuel went back and forth again, with Rodriguez alleging that the reduction in power did not resolved the interference, and Immanuel saying Rodriguez’s interference prediction methodology (Longley-Rice) is insufficient to show interfering overlap and lacks supporting evidence of regular listeners in the overlap area.

However, the FCC takes interference issues seriously. Although it restored the license to the original ERP, it also ordered Immanuel to suspend operations of its licensed facilities altogether until all interference is eliminated.

Immanuel now has to make the necessary changes and apply for bureau approval before it can resume station operations.