FCC Toadies

The question now is how many stations will spring for the $100,000+ required for the fourfold power increase to make their HD channels even more intrusive on adjacent channels. The FCC apparently has bowed down to overlord iBiquity on this and on any questions of interference on neighboring signals.

This Radio World story shows just how much the FCC is willing to toady to monopoly iBiquity and its NPR cohort:

The iBiquity-NPR compromise proposal suggested that at least three interference complaints from within the victim station’s affected contour should be required to trigger commission action, but the FCC decided to set the bar higher. It will require six complaints of “ongoing (rather than transitory) objectionable interference.”

Those complaints start a 90-day clock for the FCC to investigate and take action. If the Enforcement Bureau misses this deadline, the interfering station would have to begin reducing power in stages, all the way back down to the current –20 dBc, until the parties agree that the interference is gone.

Some observers worry that the commission will not put teeth into enforcing the interference remediation procedure.

Barry McLarnon is a former research engineer with Communications Research Centre, a government research lab attached to Industry Canada that conducts research in communications including broadcasting. Industry Canada handles technical aspects of broadcasting such as standards and allocations.

Now semi-retired and an independent consultant performing occasional contract work for CRC, McLarnon is “highly skeptical” that interference remediation will work.

“Up to now, the commission has maintained a hands-off policy regarding IBOC interference, and I don’t see that changing. I don’t buy the claim that there have been no interference complaints — I’ve heard otherwise.” He cited the case of WYSL, an AM station, but did not identify any FM cases. . . .

He believes an affected station will have a hard time showing that it is receiving interference from an IBOC neighbor running at higher digital power unless the victim station can convince the IBOC neighbor to conduct “carefully controlled tests” at different IBOC power levels.

Another vocal opponent, Bob Savage, president and chief executive officer of WYSL(AM) in Rochester, N.Y., said when there’s “the first decision ordering an interfering station to reduce power, I’m buying you a steak dinner. It will never happen.”. . .

Savage — who refers to himself as “the poster boy for naysayers of HD Radio” — said the commission still has not acted on his 2007 interference complaint of problems caused by digital operation at CBS station WBZ(AM) in Boston, an argument denied by the broadcaster.

Others cite different reasons for opposing the FCC action allowing the increase.

Low-power FM proponent Prometheus Radio Project was not happy that LPFMs didn’t get special protections in the order. The FCC said that to “deny a full-powered station additional digital power based on the potential of increased interference to an LPFM” would be unfair since LPFMs are licensed as a secondary service….

“The experiments showed that we could expect some real difficulties, but the FCC decided to go full steam ahead despite the poor results.”

The compromise adopted by the FCC includes a formula developed by NPR and endorsed by iBiquity to calculate how much of an increase stations can take without interfering with their analog neighbors. In its decision, the commission wrote that its experience with higher digital-powered experimental authorizations suggests the formula is “over-predictive of the potential for interference. Nevertheless we believe that the protection this methodology provides to first-adjacent” stations will work.

Perhaps we’re about to see if this actually will work. Jack Hannold sends along this story from radio-info.com of a formal complaint filed in a major market:

L.A. owner Willie Davis says K-Earth’s HD Radio signal is causing “ongoing and destructive” interference

Davis-run All-Pro Broadcasting (named in deference to the Packer great) says it hasn’t gotten any satisfaction from KRTH owner CBS — so it’s formally complaining to the FCC. All-Pro owns KATY, Idyllwild CA at 101.3. That’s first-adjacent to KRTH at 101.1, and Davis submits an engineering analysis allegedly showing that the “hybrid digital operations” of K-Earth (that’s digital+analog) are affecting reception of KATY “over a substantial portion of the area within its protected 60-dBu signal contour.” The always-helpful CGC Communicator engineering publication observes that KRTH isn’t your garden variety FM. It’s a grandfathered “superpower” Class B, with 54,000 watts at an antenna height of 3,041 feet. So the complaints about K-Earth may not be typical of what other operators are running into with HD Radio. It’s also not clear if CBS has taken advantage of the new May 10 policy to raise power. Licensees already running HD Radio can simply go ahead and increase power levels, as long as they notify the FCC within ten days. . . .

Stay tuned, kids. This could get interesting. For more on this, see the story at rbr.com.


One Response

  1. Bob Savage (WYSL) filed the infamous interference complaint a few years ago against WBZ, but the FCC did nothing to mitigate interference. Here is an explanation by Bob of the legalities of this process, or should I say, “sham”:

    “How This Game is Played”

    “iBiquity, the Alliance and the lawyer-packed (and engineer-lite) FCC have conspired to create a little jurisdictional Catch-22 designed to prevent precisely the action you propose. If a station victimized by IBOC interference tries to short-circuit the FCC complaint-and-enforcement process and sue the interferor directly, you land immediately into a legal conundrum… So: you’ve filed your interference complaint(s) with the Enforcement Bureau – which the Commission staff, deeply in the tank for iBiquity, has resolutely spiked. They’ll pretend like they never received it… You could also add the argument that the FCC has NEVER taken action on ANY IBOC interference complaint, there have been scores of them.”


    The only thing Struble’s scam is doing is dividing the terrestrial radio industry.

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