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A New FM Class “A10” for Radio?

Commander to FCC: Make it so

Logo of WRTM, with the words "Soul Rhythm & Blues, 100.5 FM WRTM-FM" in gold and red lettering on a black background
Commander Communication is licensee of WRTM in Sharon, Miss.

This story has been updated to reflect that the FCC is now seeking public comments on the proposal.

A Mississippi broadcaster is asking the FCC to establish an FM station class called A10, hoping that hundreds of Class A stations would be able to increase power.

He thinks his proposal might stand a better chance at the FCC than the previously proposed Class C4. And on Thursday the FCC announced it will take public comment on the idea.

Carl Haynes, president of Commander Communication Corp., submitted the petition for rulemaking (read it here). Eligible licensees and permittees would be able to build facilities of 10,000 watts effective radiated power from an antenna height above average terrain of 100 meters.

Comments can be filed via the FCC online filing system. Refer to MB Docket No. 24-183. Comments are due July 22, with replies due Aug. 21.

Haynes said in an email to Radio World that Class A stations need a better signal in order to compete and better serve the public.

“Many Class As are locally owned small broadcasters with only one station. This may be our last chance for help just to survive,” Haynes said. “The new class would allow hundreds of Class A FM stations to broadcast with increased power.”

Commander owns WRTM(FM), licensed to Jackson, Miss. The station is Class A and broadcasts at 6,000 watts at 100 meters HAAT.

More than a decade ago, SSR Communications suggested that the FCC create a Class C4, between Classes A and C3. The FCC to date has not acted on that idea.

In 2021 the commission denied Commander’s request to operate as a kind of test case of the C4 parameters.

Haynes said the new A10 proposal is similar to C4 but with a lower power level; he describes his effort as “a more streamlined concept” for the FCC to consider. “It is my opinion after talking with FCC staff members, this proposal stands a much better chance.”

Headshot of Carl Haynes, a man with beard in suit and tie
Carl Haynes

FM Class A10 would be available in all FCC FM zones, not just Zone II as proposed in the Class C4 plan. It does away with other language that included an involuntary Section 73.215 conference procedure for “underbuilt” FM commercial stations, which drew objections, Haynes said.

The petition says the change would “serve the public interest and benefit thousands of listeners with reliable signals to keep the public informed in times of severe weather and natural disasters.” It says the change would allow many existing FM broadcast facilities to “significantly improve their service areas without impacting the actual service areas of other co-channel and adjacent channel stations.”

The petition proposes minor changes to four sections of the FM rules, including the merging of new minimum distance separation requirements into existing tables for FM Class A10.

SSR Communications originally solicited the FCC to launch FM Class C4, which would permit maximum facility power of 12 kilowatts at 100 meters height above average terrain. It faced stiff opposition from the National Association of Broadcasters over interference concerns. Some minority broadcasters saw the C4 proposal as a chance improve their mostly second-tier signals Class A signals, according to Radio World reporting at the time. The C4 proposal had support from the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council.

Matthew Wesolowski of SSR Communications said he is not involved in the A10 proposal.

[See past Radio World coverage of the Class C4 proposal.]

 

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