Can An FM’s Complaints About Translator Interference Be ‘Invalid’?


The FCC has made it clear that full-power FM radio stations have a clear and definitive right to complain about any FM translator that is causing interference to its signal.

In fact, the NAB on Thursday filed a Petition for Rulemaking regarding the potential interference caused by FM translators to full-power radio stations. Specifically, the NAB proposed certain rule and policy changes designed to provide translator licensees greater flexibility to resolve any interference issues, and to facilitate “the efficient disposition of interference complaints against translators.”

But, is it plausible — and possible — that an FM translator’s alleged interference of an FM signal is “invalid” and entitled to no consideration? Sewanee Phoenix and Gabrielle Broadcasting — operator of KXEG-AM 1280 in the Phoenix market and its K241CS, at 96.1 MHz  — believes so.

That’s because it has evidence suggesting the station making the complaints — Barna Broadcasting‘s Class C3 KSWG-FM 96.3 in Wickenburg, Ariz. — is operating with unauthorized facilities.

In a 43-page response to a FCC staff letter dated March 29, 2017, regarding complaints from K241CS to the direct over-the-air reception of KSWG, the attorney for Sewanee Phoenix and Gabrielle Broadcasting — David O’Neil of Washington, D.C.-based Rini O’Neil PC — asserts that KSWG is using a tower site 1/4 mile from the station’s licensed site.

Additionally, the tower at this unauthorized site is allegedly at an overall height above mean sea level 57 feet higher than licensed.

Furthermore, Sewanee and Gabrielle have evidence showing KSWG operates with a directional instead of a non­-directional pattern.

“The Commission must dismiss the pleadings filed against K241CS in this proceeding and grant the pending application for [its] construction permit,” O’Neil said.

Class D K241CS has a highly directional signal from a 2,000+-foot peak in North Mountain Village; the signal is aimed at West Valley communities such as Glendale, Peoria and Surprise, Ariz.

The CP was granted by the FCC in November 2016, and relocated from Nogales, Ariz.

A facilities modification request was made by Sewanee Phoenix on Feb. 7, 2017. On March 13, Barna filed an informal objection with the Commission, citing interference. It used complaints from seven listeners in the the Surprise area as the basis of its complaints. Two additional complaints were filed by Barna on March 28.

This led the FCC to instruct Sewanee to submit a detailed report on each interference claim by April 28.

It did just that, sending Vic Michael — a representative of Sewanee Phoenix — to visit the KSWG tower site. Using a hand-held Garmin GPS unit, he measured the station’s tower coordinates. The consulting engineering firm of Hatfield and Dawson confirmed his measurements, using aerial maps from 2003 to the present.

Next to the KSWG tower is a smaller tower, licensed to Verizon. “The measurements of Michael, engineering review by Hatfield and Dawson and location of the Verizon Tower confirm that the KSWG Tower is not where it should be,” O’Neil contends.

Furthermore, Michael’s sleuth work found KSWG to be using a full-wavelength antenna, rather than a half-wavelength spaced antenna.

“It appears that the single transmission line running up the tower has been detached from the antenna on the northwest side of the tower and instead is attached to a separate two-bay half-wavelength antenna which has been installed about 8 feet lower, on the southeast site of the tower,” O’Neil says. “There does not appear to be any directional parasitic elements for this antenna. It would seem that KSWG is operating from a non-directional antenna facing southeast instead of the antenna facing northwest.”

Based on this evidence, O’Neil asserts, “An FM translator station has no legal obligation to resolve any interference complaints from a listener listening to an unauthorized broadcast station.”

Furthermore, Michael and his partner, Gabrielle Broadcasting CEO Jacob J. Barker, call Barna’s actions “a blatant attempt to improve coverage for KSWG into Phoenix in violation of the station’s license and the Commission’s rules.” Wickenburg is approximately 60 miles northwest of downtown Phoenix; KSWG’s website prominently features a photo of the city’s skyline.

Neither KSWG owner/GM Mike Barna nor OM Chris Barna were available for comment prior to RBR + TVBR‘s deadline.