REC files comments supporting protections for LPFM and smaller AM stations

REC has filed comments in RM-11786, the Petition for Rulemaking from Aztec Capital Partners, licensee of Class C AM station WHAT, Philadelphia, PA and permittee of fill-in FM translator W260CZ.  The W260CZ application has been facing objection from WVLT, Vineland, NJ which claims they have listeners in the Philadelphia area.  WVLT is a Class A FM station located 35 miles from Philadelphia. Under §74.1203 and §74.1204 of the rules, an established broadcast station can make a claim that a proposed translator will cause interference to established listeners regardless of the location of the listener in related to the existing station.  

Aztec's petition asks for the Commission to place specific protections for "fill-in" translators including those that rebroadcast AM stations as well as those that rebroadcast FM stations, mainly their HD subchannels.  In other words, any translator that is completely inside the protected contour (2 mV/m or 25 miles for AM or 60/57/54 dBu for FM) of their primary station. Under Aztec's petition, fill-in translators would not be subject to denial as a result of such a complaint.  REC has seen cases where full power stations have objected to translators even more distant than W260CZ and WVLT.  

Classes of AM broadcast stations
A These are the "clear channel" stations that are protected during the day and night over a very wide area.  These are your big 50,000 watt stations.  These stations are mainly owned by the large corporate interests and many appear high in the ratings.
B Stations that operate on designated regional channels and are afforded  nighttime protections. Class B stations can also run on designated clear channels but must provide protections to Class A stations.  Class B stations can operate as high as 50,000 watts but at night, they usually reduce power (usually around 5,000 watts) and/or switch to a directional pattern.
C Local stations operating up to 1000 watts on 1230, 1240, 1340, 1400, 1450 and 1490.  These stations are only protected as if they are 250 watts and have very small service areas. In some areas, such as the deep south,  ground conductivity causes these stations to only be heard a few miles away.
D These are the former "daytime" only stations.  These stations can operate on designated clear and regional channels but they are afforded no nighttime protection so they are required to substantially reduce power and in some cases, shut down completely at night. While some Class D stations may have a good signal during the day, those with nighttime authority are only heard within close proximity of the station and are very vulnerable to interference from other stations and other consumer and industrial electronic devices.

In comments filed with the FCC, REC took a different approach to the situation by placing a higher public interest standard than a blanket protection for all fill-in stations. REC also took notice that translators that carry LPFM stations would not qualify for protection under Aztec's plan because an LPFM station would most likely use a translator to expand into an adjacent community and remain local.  

C's and Ds but not A's and B's

In comments, REC supported these additional protections but only for Class C and D AM stations and only in situations where the protected contour of the translator is within 25 miles of the AM tower or if more than 25 miles, the contour overlaps the community of license. With the proliferation of  evolving technology and a lack of sound Commission standards on unintentional radiators, AM stations are subject to more electrical interfrence than ever.  Of those stations, the Class C and D stations are the most affected.  Unlike their Class A and B counterparts, the Class C and D AM stations are more likely to be owned by "mom-and-pops", minorities, women or small regional group owners than they would be by large corporate interests.  These stations are more likely to carry community focused programming than their larger counterparts. We opposed these protections being applied to Class A and B AM stations as these higher powered facilities are not as vulnerable to interfrence and are more sustainable on their own as evidenced by Class A and B stations still showing with high ratings including Class A station WSB(AM) in Atlanta which is the number one station in the market.

Aztec's proposal further crutches HD Radio

REC also specifically excluded translators that are operated as fill-in for full-service FM stations.  A very large majority of these fill-in stations are being used for the rebroadcast of a HD Radio multicast service, many of these services are non-local national services (such as iHeart 80s) and all of these services are readily available  without electrical interference by purchasing a compatible HD radio.  REC has taken the position that translators should not be given special protections because consumers have not embraced HD Radio and the industry has been very slow to roll out services.

Translators for LPFMs must be protected too

We also asked for translators carrying LPFM stations to receive the same protections even though there is not full contour overlap.  LPFM translators would have to be located in a manner where there is some overlap between the translator and the primary LPFM station and meets the other requirements of §73.860(b) of the rules.

REC asks for translator interference rules to specifically mention LPFM.  

For those translators that would not fall under the exemption (those carrying Class A or B AM stations, FM HD fill-in translators and non-commercial translators carrying an out of area service such as K-Love), we are asking the FCC to specifically call out established incumbent LPFM stations as being eligible for protection from new translators at the same level that secondary Class D FM stations and other translators are.  The rules affected have not been revised since 1990, a decade prior to the creation of LPFM.  Under this proposal, it will be clearly clarified that an existing (on-air) LPFM station that can make a showing that a proposed or operating translator is causing or predicted to cause interference to listeners the existing LPFM station inside the translator's protected contour, that LPFM stations have the same rights as full-service FM, TV Channel 6 stations, Class D secondary and FM translators to object to the new translator.  

REC supports a citizen's access to the airwaves, especially in rural areas through non-commercial and commercial means.  

View the Aztec Capital Partners Petition for Rulemaking at ECFS

View REC's comments in RM-11786