REC open Letter to Rep. Maurice D. Hinchey (D-NY)
REC supports the spirit of the Reclaiming the Public Airwaves Act. REC wants assurances that non-commercial issues are also addressed.
Hon. Maruice D. Hinchley
First of all, on behalf of REC Networks, I would like to personally thank you for taking the stand that you are on the media ownership issue.
You appear to be one of the few who are not addressing strictly television ownership but also radio ownership issues. Unfortunately, unless you live in a remote Western community, then your chances of independent ownership of radio station is almost non-existent.
Although I am not a constiuent of your area, I do have some small ties to the Hudson Valley area, but this media issue is not just an Upstate issue, but is a issue of national importance.
It is my understanding, you are currently crafting legislation, which will, in part, reverse the FCC's June 2, 2003 decision on media ownership.
Please keep in mind that there are other ownership issues that are not getting the proper focus that they should be getting. These ownership issues are related to Non-commercial stations and the future of local low power radio.
For example, one single organization, Calvary Chapel of Twin Falls Idaho, have two full power FM stations in the same town but they have a network of over 700 translators (either in operation, under construction or applied for). These translators (relay stations) are in communities across the country, from Florida to Hawaii. This is due to a loop hole that allows a licensee of a non-commercial FM station to set up a translator and program it via satellite (vs. over the air reception that is reqired of commercial stations). Although this rule was intended to bring educational programming into areas not served by full power FM stations (such as in the mountainous western states and remote places such as Alaska), organizations such as Calvary have exploited this loop hole by setting up all of these translators.
Another organization, Educational Media Foundation has over 100 full power FM stations (either in operation or under construction) across the country.
All of these stations carry very little to no local content. In the case of the translators, they are not required to monitor local Emergency Alert System (EAS) broadcasts. This means that anyone listening to these stations will not be warned of local weather, evacuation notices or local Amber Alerts.
To make matters even worse, the FCC opened up a filing window for new translator applications in mid-March. Of the 13,000+ applications that were filed, over 5,000 of them were from a single organization operating under two different fronts. This organization does not have any licensed FM stations (either on the air or under construction), many of the applications were defective (they would cause interference to other stations) and some applications including willful false statements. We also note that this window was intended more for commercial translators since it involved auctions, the non-commercial applicants dominated the filing window (since they are not subject to auction fees).
You wonder, why is REC Networks very concerned about media ownership in the non-commercial arena, especially when a non-commercial station has nothing to "gain"? It's all about localism.
REC Networks is one of several organizations that is involved in the advocacy and advancement of Low Power FM (LPFM) broadcast stations. Unlike the translators, LPFM stations are originated from local organizations, both faith based and secular. These stations are properly designed as not to cause interference to full power broadcast stations.
Unfortunately, the LPFM service was substantially affected by a "pork" amendment to a District of Columbia spending bill. This amendment, titled the "Radio Broadcast Protection Act" imposed additional restrictions on the placement of LPFM stations. Even though the Commission's own research as well as research performed by independent organizations proved that no interference would happen to full power stations without the restrictions. The bill was very heavily promoted by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). The NAB used information based on early-70's technology and provided Congress with a CD that had a "simulation" of what LPFM 'interference' to full power stations would sound like.
As a result of the bill, Congress has ordered the FCC to conduct an independent study using real world stations. This study has been completed. The LPFM community is awaiting the outcome of the results.
REC Networks provides various database services to current and aspiring low power broadcasters. This is provided on a "shareware" basis. If they appreciate what we have done, they can donate. Trust me, I do not make a living off of LPFM.
Since you are considering introducing a "Reclaiming The Public Airwaves Act", we need to look at any or all of the following points to include in an omnibus restructure of local broadcasting rules:
1. ORDER THE FCC TO ESTABLISH A NEW "DISTANT TRANSLATOR" SERVICE.
The Distant Translator Service would be designed to "provide primary public radio services into remote and isolated areas by broadcasting the signal of a radio station from a very distant community". The definition of "distant" would be a primary station that is over 400km from the translator. All existing non-commercial translators that meet that criteria would be reclassified into the Distant Translator Service. A Distant Translator would be considered "secondary" in relation to LPFM stations. This means that if an LPFM station wants to come on the air and there is no space on the dial for the station, the LPFM applicant can displace (or "bump") a Distant Translator. In areas that are truely remote, there would not be any displacement. The goal here is that a local signal should have priority over a distant signal.
2. ORDER THE FCC TO RELEASE THE RESULTS OF THE "3RD ADJACENT CHANNEL" STUDY ORDERED UNDER THE RADIO BROADCAST PROTECTION ACT (RPBA).
The FCC would release the findings of MITRE and Comsearch, the contractor and subcontractor who did the study to Congress and the general public.
2A. IF THE RPBA RESULTS ARE FAVORABLE, THE FCC SHALL REINSTATE ALL LPFM APPLICATIONS THAT WERE DISMISSED ON MARCH 17, 2003.
3. ORDER THE FCC TO IMPOSE NEW REGULATIONS THAT PUT LPFM STATIONS ON AN EQUAL PLAYING FIELD WITH NON-DISTANT TRANSLATORS as it relates to interference protections afforded to full power stations. Also, Congress should order that the FCC impose rulemaking that will protect 10 watt Low Power FM stations (LP-10). Currently, translators can "bump" an LP-10 station. A filing window has not yet opened for LP-10 stations.
4. INCLUDE LEGISLATION THAT WOULD REMOVE TELEVISION CHANNEL 6 (82-88 MHZ) FROM THE "CORE" TELEVISION SPECTRUM AND RE-ASSIGN THIS SPECTRUM TO THE EXPANSION OF LOWER POWER FM BROADCAST AND LPFM STATIONS.
As TV stations are currently going through the Digital TV (DTV) conversion, they are being given an alternate channel to transition to. Once the DTV transition is complete, they can transition back to their original channel or they can stay on their digital channel assignment. Because of the potential interference to non-commercial FM stations (Channel 6 is adjacent to the FM band) and due to other technical reasons, Channel 6 (as well as many of the TV channels 6 and below) are undesirable for DTV use. [Currently, there is only one DTV station assigned to Channel 6. Another DTV Channel 6 in Alaska is petitioning the FCC to change channels.] REC is asking that the Channel 6 spectrum be changed to FM broadcast to create 30 new channels on the FM band. In areas with a DTV Channel 5, about 18 of the channels can be assigned. Radio receivers are readily available as this spectrum is the FM broadcast band in Japan. Stations in this band would be restricted to 1,000 watts with an antenna height of 100 meters above average terrain. No translators would be allowed.
5. ORDER THE FCC TO AMEND THEIR ADMINISTRATIVE PRACTICES (47 CFR 1) TO ALLOW FOR MORE PUBLIC INVOLVEMENT AND LOCAL INVOLVEMENT IN THE FM AND TV TABLE OF ALLOTMENTS PROCESS.
For commercial FM and TV stations, before a new station can be established, someone must petition the FCC to amend the table of allotments to add the channel to the community. The petitioner is under a burden to prove the community qualifies for allotments. Current administrative practices (specifcally, the Ex-parte rules) restrict public access to the allotment process. This is done through severe restrictions on electronic filing and service requirements that are no longer necessary in this computer age. REC is asking that Part 1 be revised to allow for electronic filing in allotment cases, not to require service unless the pleading is specifically proposing to change someone else's facility. REC feels that Congress should investigate current FCC practice that permits the owner of a rural broadcast station to move their station closer to a major city while reducing or eliminating local radio service in the rural community. REC would like to see a Congressional investigation into the Commission's ongoing policy of determining community independence from a major metro are by applying "Faye and Richard Tuck". The "Tuck" analysis is supposed to protect rural towns from using their communities as city of license in order to program to a major city. Pahrump (Las Vegas), Nevada is an excellent example of this abuse. In addition, Congress should order the FCC to impose a limit on the number of petitions to amend the Table of Allotments by an individual or organization to a fixed amount in a 365 day period. REC recommends 3. In the alternate, require that all petitioners to amend the FM or TV Table of Allotments to submit financial statements stating that they are financially capable of constructing and operating the station themselves.
6. THE FCC MUST BE ORDERED TO RECIND ALL APPLICATIONS FILED DURING THE MARCH 2003 TRANSLATOR FILING WINDOW AND IMPOSE RESTRICTIONS SIMILAR TO WHAT LPFM WENT THROUGH IN OUR FILING WINDOWS.
Besides many of the defective applications, some organizations filed for stations on multiple channels. For example, Calvary Chapel of Twin Falls filed for 9 different channels in El Centro, CA. LPFM was limited to one channel in their filings. REC feels that the translator window be reopened with a reminder that LP-100 stations (including applications that are not on the air) must be protected. In addition, translator applications would be limited to one channel per location and that the number of applications are restricted to whatever ownership restrictions are imposed in this legislation.
The bottom line here is that we have Clear Channel-like situations in the non-commercial arena. These issues need to be addressed in any legislation that takes place. Any legislation must be written in a way that it does not appear to be against religious broadcasting. Even though REC is a secular organization, we support LOCAL religious LPFM stations. We feel that a local religious station should have priority over a religious "chain" organization.
Remember, these local LPFM religious and secular stations are required to have the proper equipment at their stations to receive weather warnings and Amber Alerts (via the Emergency Alert System).
Currently, there is still one possible channel for a future LPFM station in Kingston. As a result of actions, such as the translator filing window mentioned above, the following New York communities have lost their chances of ever getting an LPFM station: Jamestown, Saratoga Springs, Amsterdam, Oswego, Gloversville, Olean, Fulton, Corning, Port Jervis, Johnstown and Brockport among many others.
If you want more localism in radio, this is what we need to do. If you have any questions about this information. I am willing to work with you to help identify these issus further and assist in the writing of any legislation.
REC Networks has a lot of information about LPFM as well as information on other organizations who are also involved in this effort. Please visit our website at
for more information.
Together we can put the word "local" back into radio.
Rich Eyre for
P O Box 40816
Mesa AZ 85274-0816