Affirmed: A Chicago Class A Can’t Move To Channel 41

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The licensee of a Class A television station in Chicago that challenged a FCC Media Bureau dismissal of a Displacement Application to change the station’s digital dial position from Channel 4 to Channel 41 has been thwarted in its efforts to get the Commission to change its mind.


The station is WOCK-CD, which used Channel 13 until June 2009 and is now available solely via its digital channel. It is owned by KM Communcations, and at last report has been airing infomercials following the 2016 demise of the MundoMax Spanish-language television network.

The switch to digital-only broadcasts in mid-2009 is key to KM’s saga with WOCK-CD. At the time, both KM’s station and WHBF-4 in the Quad Cities, Iowa-Ill., market each claimed to have poor reception. WHBF sought to increase power to address the issue; WOCK didn’t challenge the request, which the FCC granted in June 2010.

That’s because WOCK requested displacement relief, and in March 2010 proposed a shift to Channel 30. This petition was denied by the Video Division of the FCC’s Media Bureau, explaining that the Commission’s rules provide that a station can file for displacement relief when it is receiving or is predicted to receive interference from another protected “station” or “service.”

In doing so, it rejected KM’s arguments that impulse noise interference, or the technical difficulties associated with operations in the low VHF band, allow a station to seek displacement relief.

Undeterred, KM in November 2013 filed a second displacement relief application — the one at issue here — and requested a move to Channel 41. This time, KM claimed that it was entitled to displacement relief because it was receiving actual interference. To support this claim, KM provided complaints from 18 viewers concerning WOCK’s “poor signal.”

In August 2015, after analyzing KM’s predicted and actual interference claims, the Video Division dismissed the Displacement Application. The Video Division concluded that the viewer complaints of a “poor signal” were inadequate to demonstrate that WOCK was receiving interference from WHBF.

The division also rejected KM’s contour overlap showing because a Longley-Rice terrain analysis demonstrated no predicted impermissible interference to WOCK from WHBF, some 170 miles west of the John Hancock Tower, where WOCK’s transmitter is located.

KM didn’t give up, and in September 2015 filed an Application for Review with the Commission. In the AFR, KM alleges that the Letter Decision improperly rejected its contour overlap analysis when determining that WOCK-CD was not displaced.

Then, on On Feb. 16, 2016, KM filed a pleading styled “Notification” asserting that, until the Division’s dismissal of the Displacement Application becomes final, it has “certain rights” with respect to digital channel 41 in Chicago. Therefore, KM argued, “the FCC should not take any action inconsistent with those rights, such as auctioning Channel 41 in the broadcast television spectrum incentive auction.”

In a ruling released by the FCC on Friday (6/23), it affirmed the Video Division’s decision to dismiss the Displacement Application and dismissed, in part, and otherwise denied the AFR.

Why?

As an initial matter, the Displacement Application did not comply with a section of the Spectrum Act that precludes the Commission from reassigning a full-power or Class A station from a VHF channel to a UHF channel after Feb. 22, 2012, unless “certain statutory criteria are satisfied.”

Independent of this conclusion, the FCC found that KM failed to demonstrate that WOCK is entitled to displacement relief based on predicted or actual interference, or claims that the Commission has impermissibly treated similarly situated stations differently.