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WCOJ Loses Appeal in Interference Case

Its gripe was with another station on 1420

The Federal Communications Commission has turned down a petition from WCOJ(AM) in Coatesville, Pa., that alleged it had mishandled an interference case involving a Virginia station on the same frequency.

Group A Licensee, then the owner of WCOJ, had asked the FCC to reconsider an approval it had given for higher power to WKCW in Warrenton, Va., which is owned by Metro Radio. Both stations are at 1420 kHz. (Though Group A has since sold WCOJ to Holy Spirit Radio Foundation, the FCC responded to the earlier owner’s complaint.)

The case evolved as follows: In 2004, the FCC staff issued Metro Radio a CP for WKCW to increase daytime power from 10 kilowatts to 22 kW and nighttime power from 1.7 to 60 watts, using a directional antenna system.

Metro received an STA to operate with the new facilities to make final adjustments and take proof measurements. In early 2006, Group A complained about daytime and critical hours interference to WCOJ from WKCW. Metro replied that it had been operating in compliance and that any interference likely was from another source, perhaps the result of problems with the WCOJ antenna system or from cyclic sunspot activity.

But the Enforcement Bureau also received receiving interference complaints from WCOJ listeners. It made an unannounced inspection of WKCW in early 2007 and found no violations; it also made nighttime measurements at its nighttime monitoring points and took field strength readings to determine whether it was properly changing to nighttime power; it found that the station appeared to be in compliance.

The FCC staff then granted the power increase, saying WKCW did protect WCOJ. Group A appealed in early 2008. Calling the staff’s conclusion’s “woefully insufficient,” Group A argued that it had deserved a hearing before a power increase approval was finalized; it said the interference it was receiving “constitutes a modification of WCOJ’s license,” thus entitling it to a hearing. It said the FCC should have conducted a reasonable investigation beyond ascertaining whether the new, higher-power facilities were being operated in accordance with the CP.

The commission staff ruled that Group A didn’t raise any issues that warrant reconsideration. Noting that the FCC licenses on a “predicted interference” basis, it stated that “the staff engineering study confirmed that the application meets all protection requirements with respect to WCOJ(AM),” so the approval did not constitute a modification of WCOJ’s license and Group A was not entitled to a hearing on that basis.

“Group A does not cite any rule that [WKCW] is violating nor does it allege that the station is operating contrary to its authorization,” the staff continued. Under the rules, “only the groundwave contour of a Class B station, such as WCOJ(AM), is protected from objectionable interference. The staff found that the proposed station facilities comply with this rule. Moreover, the rules do not provide any critical hours protection for Class B station WCOJ(AM).” Thus any “interference” that may occur to WCOJ(AM) from WKCW during critical hours is not “objectionable,” it ruled.

Group A also had argued that if the commission staff “did not want to devote the necessary resources [to conduct] … an adequate investigation of the interference so as to permit it to be resolved, then at the very least, Metro Radio should have been required to conduct one.” Peter Doyle, the chief of the Audio Division, replied in this week’s ruling: “The record of this proceeding establishes that the commission took precisely the actions which Group A demands,” noting that the Enforcement Bureau had done its unannounced inspection and made additional observations of field measurements and required power/pattern changes.